This topic provides information about mastoiditis.
What is mastoiditis?
Mastoiditis is a bacterial infection of the bone behind the ear, the mastoid bone. The mastoid bone is an air-filled bone located directly behind the ear, a part of the larger temporal bone.
What causes mastoiditis?
Mastoiditis is caused by the bacterial infection of otitis media (middle ear infection) spreading to the air cells of the mastoid bone. It is more likely to occur if the otitis media is left untreated.
You have a greater chance of getting mastoiditis if you are a child with susceptibility to otitis media or have otitis media that is left untreated.
What are the symptoms?
- Pain (otalgia) of the ear or area behind the ear
- Swelling or redness of the area behind the ear (mastoid region)
- Hearing loss
- Headache and/or fever
- Drainage from the ear
How is mastoiditis diagnosed?
Mastoiditis is first diagnosed by physical examination of the ear and skull area behind the ear. If drainage from the ear is present, a culture may be performed to check for infection.
To confirm diagnosis, imaging tests may also be perfomed, including a CT scan of the temporal bone.
How is it treated?
Mastoiditis is first treated with the use of intravenous (IV) and oral antibiotics. Long-term antibiotic use may be necessary.
If the mastoid infection does not respond to antibiotic treatment, a surgical procedure may be performed. Surgical procedures are likely to include a myringotomy, in which a small incision is made in the eardrum to relieve pressure and drain fluid. A pressure equalization tube (PE Tube) may also be placed in the eardrum to prevent fluid accumulation in the middle ear.
In more severe cases, a mastoidectomy will be performed to remove the infected portion of the mastoid bone.
Does mastoiditis cause lasting problems?
If left untreated, mastoiditis can cause serious and life-threatening consequences. If the mastoid infection spreads to the surrounding structures, complications can include complete hearing loss, labyrinthitis, meningitis, facial-nerve palsy, and/or brain abscess.
Promptly treating ear infections can prevent the development of mastoiditis.