Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a chronic, genetic, incurable disease that affects primarily the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. End-stage lung disease is the leading cause of death in people with CF, and lung transplant is required to preserve life. Anti-rejection medications are necessary post-transplant; however, these medications lower immune response and increase susceptibility to bacterial infections. Complications from infections post lung-transplant account for approximately 30% of CF-related deaths. Retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) is a rare deep neck infection that occurs most commonly in children. This is the case of a 45-year-old Caucasian male with CF who developed a retropharyngeal abscess post wisdom teeth extraction that seeded into hardware from a previous cervical disc fusion.
The patient presented to the emergency department with severe neck and shoulder pain, limited range of motion in his arm and neck, and dysphonia. He reported feeling pain for 10 days and suspected the pain was caused by a weightlifting injury. The patient reported low-grade fever 5 days prior, which responded to acetaminophen. He was afebrile upon admission and in no respiratory distress. Diagnostic labs revealed WBC 22,000/uL and CRP 211 mg/L. The CT scan showed a large abscess in the retropharyngeal space between C2-C7. The immediate concern was airway obstruction and need for possible intubation or tracheostomy. The patient was transferred to ENT service with neurosurgery and transplant consults. The RPA was drained and lavaged. The cervical hardware was discovered to be infected and was removed. The source of the RPA infection was determined to be from the patient’s wisdom teeth extraction 6 months prior to RPA. The patient received 8 weeks of intravenous ceftriaxone for Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteremia and underwent revision of his cervical fusion 3 months after hardware removal.
Clinicians should consider prophylactic antimicrobial therapy for immunocompromised patients when they are at increased risk for transient bacteremia such as following invasive procedures (e.g., tooth extraction). Prophylactic antimicrobial therapy could prevent potentially life-threatening infections such as RPA in immunocompromised patients.