Background: In the preantibiotic era acute mastoiditis was the most common complication of acute otitis media, often resulting in substantial morbidity and mortality. Since 1989 several investigators have documented an increased frequency of acute mastoiditis in children.
Methods: The medical records of all children with a discharge diagnosis of acute mastoiditis, managed at Children's Medical Center, Dallas, TX, from 1983 through 1999 were reviewed.
Results: There were 57 cases of acute mastoiditis during the 17-year period of 1983 through 1999 compared with 57 cases in a 25-year period of 1955 through 1979 reported previously at the same institution. The number of cases of acute mastoiditis per 10,000 hospital admissions increased significantly (regression analysis P = 0.003) during the more recent 17 years. From 1993 through 1999 there were 4.5 cases or more per 10,000 admissions each year, whereas from 1983 through 1992, the incidence never exceeded 4.3 cases per 10,000 admissions (P = 0.018). The median age of the patients was 48 months. Twenty-two patients (38.5%) were younger than 24 months; 17 of these were 12 months of age or younger. Twenty-two (38.5%) patients had no history of previous episodes of acute otitis media. Streptococcus pneumoniae was the pathogen most often isolated from the cultures. Complications of mastoiditis occurred in 20 children (35%).
Conclusions: We conclude that acute mastoiditis continues to be a problem in the post antibiotic era. It occurs mainly in young children and can be the first evidence of ear disease.