Cervicofacial Actinomycosis: Diagnosis and Management

Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2005 May;7(3):170-174. doi: 10.1007/s11908-005-0030-0.


Cervicofacial actinomycosis is an uncommon but fascinating infection of the head and neck. Most cases are odontogenic in origin and occur predominantly in immunocompetent individuals. Causative microorganisms are generally of low pathogenicity and cause disease only in the setting of antecedent tissue injury. The disease process is characterized by the formation of abscesses, fibrosis and woody induration of tissues, and draining sinuses that discharge "sulfur granules." Cultural isolation of Actinomyces species from clinical specimens, or microscopic visualization of gram-positive, non-acid-fast, thin, branching filaments in cytologic aspirates or histopathologic sections are the best methods of diagnosis of cervicofacial actinomycosis. Penicillin is the drug of choice and is usually administered for 2 to 12 months, although short-course treatment may cure uncomplicated infection. Surgical therapy is often indicated for curettage of bone, resection of necrotic tissue, excision of sinus tracts, and drainage of soft tissue abscesses. The prognosis for treated infection is excellent.