Cervical infection with descending mediastinitis: a review of six cases

Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2006 Nov;35(11):1021-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijom.2006.06.021. Epub 2006 Oct 4.


The aim of this study was to retrospectively review cases of cervical infection with descending mediastinitis, and to analyse the clinical character, diagnosis and treatment of this infection. Six patients were identified from December 1998 to June 2005. Their aetiology, associated systemic diseases, bacteriology, radiology, treatments and outcomes were reviewed. Four cases resulted from odontogenic infection, one from upper airway infection, and one had an unknown cause. Diffuse swelling in face and neck, chest distress, tachypnea, and fever were the main symptoms. Chest radiography showed a widening of the upper mediastinal shadow in four patients. Four patients underwent computed tomographic scanning that confirmed the diagnosis of descending mediastinitis, which suggests that routine use of this scan be highly recommended for early detection. Six different pathogens were identified through pus and blood culture. All patients underwent surgical drainage. Three patients received a tracheotomy. Of the six patients, four achieved good results, and there were two deaths. Early surgical drainage remains the main treatment for cervical infection with descending mediastinitis. Delayed diagnosis, inadequate drainage and multidrug-resistant bacterial infection were responsible for the deaths.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Drainage
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediastinitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mediastinitis / etiology
  • Mediastinitis / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck
  • Pericoronitis / complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staphylococcal Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / etiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / therapy
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed