Indexed on: 23 Jun '09Published on: 23 Jun '09Published in: Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Retropharyngeal calcific tendinitis (RCT) is an under-recognized benign condition that results in significant neck pain and may mimic a retropharyngeal abscess (RPA). We describe the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of RCT as well as features that differentiate it from RPA.We present a case report and analyze the clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of 71 additional patients with RCT identified through a PubMed literature review between 1964 and early 2008. We then compared these findings with those of RPA.The most common symptoms of RCT at presentation were neck pain (94%), limited range of motion (45%), odynophagia (45%), neck stiffness (42%), dysphagia (27%), sore throat (17%), and neck spasm (11%). Other frequent findings include low-grade fever, mild leukocytosis, and a slightly elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Seventy-five percent of patients with RPA present with similar symptoms and cervical radiographic abnormalities are comparable in the majority of cases with either pathology.RCT frequently mimics the clinical features of RPA and recognizing the key symptoms and signs of RCT versus RPA can be challenging but important in avoiding unnecessary interventions. We recommend that computed tomography of the neck be considered as a first step in differentiating the 2 conditions. The presence of an amorphous calcification anterior to the C1 and/or C2 vertebral body(s) with a non-ring-enhancing fluid collection in the prevertebral space should be considered highly suspicious for RCT. RCT can be self-limiting and will usually resolve in 2 weeks. Effective treatment typically consists of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or opiate analgesics.