Atypical culture-negative skull base osteomyelitis masquerading as advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Am J Otolaryngol. 2016 May-Jun;37(3):236-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2016.01.003. Epub 2016 Jan 23.


Skull base osteomyelitis typically arises as a complication of otogenic or sinonasal infections in immunocompromised patients. A much rarer entity, atypical skull base osteomyelitis is not associated with an obvious infective source. Atypical and culture-negative skull base osteomyelitis is even rarer and hampers diagnosis, as its clinical presentation is remarkably similar to skull base neoplasms. We report a case of extensive skull base osteomyelitis with orbital apex syndrome and multiple lower cranial nerve palsies which initially masqueraded as possible advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Extensive investigations and consult with an infectious diseases specialist aided in elucidation of the correct diagnosis. Through this article, we emphasize that skull base osteomyelitis must be considered in the setting of headache, cranial neuropathies, elevated inflammatory markers and abnormal imaging findings. Early tissue sampling for histology, stainings and cultures and prompt appropriate treatment may prevent or arrest further complications.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis*
  • Osteomyelitis / microbiology*
  • Skull Base*