The Curbsiders podcast

#17 Sore throat? Absent cough? Ask Doctor Centor.

October 31, 2016 | By

Dr. Robert Centor’s Knowledge Food, Part 2!  On this episode of The Curbsiders, we continue our discussion with the legendary Dr. Centor, focusing on pharyngitis and the highly entertaining origin of the Centor Criteria.  Not only do we learn how to dominate pharyngitis, but we also uncover one of Dr. Watto’s knowledge deficits – Lemierre’s Syndrome.  (He owes us a two minute talk on Lemierre’s Syndrome in case you’re wondering. I know I am.)

Clinical Pearls:

  1. Admit your own limitations!  Many overestimate their skills as a clinical educator.
    1. Preadolescents get streptococcal pharyngitis (…or it’s nothing).
    2. Adolescents are much more complicated with streptococcus, EBV, CMV, acute HIV, fusobacterium, and multiple other causes.
  2. Important: Separate the causes of pharyngitis in preadolescents and adolescents.
    1. General rule: Sore throats should not cause rigors; if present then admit patient, obtain blood cultures, and start antibiotics.
  3. Do NOT miss a peritonsillar abscess or Lemierre’s Syndrome in acute pharyngitis.
  4. Pharyngitis improves within three to five days.  Failure to improve should prompt a more thorough investigation.
  5. Lemierre’s Syndrome (1 in 70,000 untreated pharyngitis patients) is septic thrombophlebitis of the internal jugular vein.  The treatment is IV antibiotics and NOT anticoagulation.  
  6. Dr. Centor and the IDSA recommends Amoxicillin once daily and, if penicillin allergic, Clindamycin.  The most recent IDSA update recommends a 10-day course of Amoxicillin (50mg/kg up to 1000mg once daily).

Dr. Centor’s “Take-Home” Points:

  1. Adolescents tend to have more complicated pharyngitis
  2. Pharyngitis and rigors?  Admit, obtain cultures, and start antibiotics.
  3. Sore throats don’t get worse and, if they do, you need to rethink the case

Dr. Centor reports no relevant financial disclosures for this topic.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this podcast listeners will be able to:

  1. Identify the limitations of the Centor Criteria in regards to (a) preadolescents and (b) adolescents, taking special precautions in the adolescent population
  2. Understand which acute pharyngitis patients require a more thorough investigation
  3. Be able to identify Amoxicillin as the treatment of choice for acute bacterial pharyngitis with Clindamycin as the second-line antibiotics choice.

Links from the show:

  1. Check our Dr. Centor’s wonderful blog, at or on twitter
  2. Centor’s Criteria (MDCalc) —
  3. IDSA Guidelines on Diagnosis and Management of Group A Streptococcus Pharyngitis –
  4. Original article using the Centor score for pharyngitis
  5. Dr. Centor’s article on fusobacterium Centor RM, et al. The clinical presentation of Fusobacterium-positive and streptococcal-positive pharyngitis in a university health clinic: a cross-sectional study. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Feb 17;162(4):241-7. doi: 10.7326/M14-1305.


  1. February 20, 2017, 2:08am Michaela Skelly MD writes:

    Matthew, I have never heard of Lemierre's syndrome either (and did pass my boards also).

  2. March 19, 2018, 7:39pm Mary T Forbes writes:

    Just wanted to say that I appreciated this podcast. I have treated neg mono and Strept ST just because the teen looked so bad. Figured I was misusing antibiotics and it was most likely viral...but, the kid and the mother were miserable. Now I wonder...was if fusiform? Great to hear the name Bob Centor, MD. I was just out of nursing school and worked in that acute and "non-acute" medical ED. It was an incredible experience and I learned so much while having a great time. Everyone was teaching everyone. I remember the resident and interns were looking at an ear, said "we don't know", let the nurse look at it. I had never really looked at ears with an otoscope before. I said "can't see anything for all the paper in the ear". We all had a good laugh. Sometimes untrained eyes are good for something too! I went on to get my NP degree as a result of all the support and education I received in that ED. That place and job was a blessing! Terry (Hoffman) Forbes CRNP- Family

  3. March 19, 2018, 7:41pm Mary T Forbes writes:

    Whoops, please fix grammar.. "that place and job WERE a blessing!" Thanks!!

CME Partner


The Curbsiders are partnering with VCU Health Continuing Education to offer FREE continuing education credits for physicians and other healthcare professionals. Visit and search for this episode to claim credit.

Contact Us

Got feedback? Suggest a Curbsiders topic. Recommend a guest. Tell us what you think.

Contact Us

We love hearing from you.


We and selected third parties use cookies or similar technologies for technical purposes and, with your consent, for other purposes as specified in the cookie policy. Denying consent may make related features unavailable.

Close this notice to consent.