When the small, air-filled cavities that are in the area in the bulge of the skull behind the ear develop a bacterial infection, this is known as mastoiditis. This is usually the result of an ear infection that has spread to the mucus membrane around the mastoid process, eventually reaching the bone itself.
If the infection is not treated and continues to spread, it can possibly destroy the delicate areas of the mastoid. If left untreated, the patient can lose his or her hearing and the bone in the skull can become destroyed.
This condition most typically affects children. In fact, before the introduction of antibiotics, mastoiditis was a common cause of death in children. In today’s advanced medical arena, the prospect for a complete and full recovery is great, if treatment is initiated in its early stages.
Left untreated, mastoiditis can lead to more serious health risks, such as meningitis, paralysis of the face and brain abscess, in addition to the aforementioned hearing loss and bone destruction.
The causes of mastoiditis can be a result of pneumococcus, Hemophilus influenzae, beta-hemolytic, streptococci, staphylococci, and gram-negative organisms. However, the most common cause of mastoiditis results in complications of chronic otitis media, which is an ear infection.
When mastoiditis is present, certain symptoms may be prevalent. These include a dull ache and tenderness around the mastoid process area. A low grade fever may develop. The patient may have a thick discharge that over time becomes more pronounced. The auricle may be pushed out from the head. The patient may notice a hearing loss and there could exist swelling of the tympanic membrane.
To treat mastoiditis, the physician will most likely introduce intravenous or intramuscular antibiotic therapy. If the damage to the bone is slight, fluid may be drained from the area and used as a specimen for culture and sensitivity testing.
If the condition occurs frequently, a simple mastoidectomy may be performed. This surgical procedure involves removing the affected bone and cleaning the affected area. Then, a drain is inserted.