Ten years of descending necrotizing mediastinitis: management of 23 cases

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2007 Sep;65(9):1716-24. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2006.10.060.


Purpose: Through a 10-year retrospective study, we report our experience in the management of descending necrotizing mediastinitis (DNM), a rare and often lethal complication of odontogenic and oropharyngeal infections.

Patients and methods: We reassessed 23 patients between the ages of 16 and 69 years (mean, 49 years) seen between 1996 and 2005, with DNM secondary to odontogenic abscess or phlegmon in 9 cases or secondary to peritonsillar abscess in 14 cases. In this study, 48% of the patients had immune system disorders, mainly diabetes mellitus (6 patients). The diagnosis of DNM was confirmed by cervicothoracic computed tomography.

Results: Eight patients underwent a bilateral collar cervicotomy, and 15 underwent a combined cervicothoracic approach. Five, 2, 1, and 1 patients underwent surgery 2, 3, 4, and 5 times, respectively. Seven patients died as a result of septic shock and multiorgan failure, for a mortality rate of 30.4%. Four of those who died had a compromised immune system.

Conclusion: The relatively high mortality rate seen in this study shows that, in addition to early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, it is important to give greater attention to and be more medically and surgically aggressive in the management of patients whose immune system is compromised in any way.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology
  • Bacterial Infections / surgery*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Focal Infection, Dental / complications*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Male
  • Mediastinitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Mediastinitis / etiology
  • Mediastinitis / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / surgery
  • Necrosis / surgery
  • Peritonsillar Abscess / complications*
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / methods*