Two hundred ninety patients treated for peritonsillar abscess (PTA) between 1970 and 1982 were reviewed. The patients were divided into those with a history of recurrent tonsillitis prior to developing PTA (72 patients, 25%), and those without (218 patients, 75%). The patients in the first group had four times more recurrences than those in the second group (40% versus 9.6%). Patients older than 40 years were found to have a lower incidence of throat infections than younger patients, and no PTA recurrences were observed. Neither subsequent tonsillitis nor recurrent PTA was observed among 72 patients (25%) who underwent tonsillectomy 6 to 12 weeks after PTA. The pre-PTA history was found to be a dominant factor in determining the need for tonsillectomy. In patients who suffered from recurrent tonsillitis prior to PTA, tonsillectomy is recommended. In those with a single episode of PTA and no history of tonsillitis, tonsillectomy is not indicated.