Systematic review and case report: Intracranial complications of pediatric sinusitis

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 Jul:86:200-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2016.05.009. Epub 2016 May 11.


Context: Intracranial complications of rhinosinusitis are rare in the post-antibiotic era. However, due to potentially devastating outcomes, prompt recognition and management are essential.

Objective: This study aims to perform the first systematic review of the intracranial complications of rhinosinusitis in order to better characterize their clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment, and report a case of frontal lobe empyema secondary to pediatric frontoethmoid sinusitis.

Data sources: Ovid MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar.

Study selection: Full-text, peer-reviewed journal publications from 1947 to January 1, 2015 in English; focus on intracranial complications of sinusitis; pediatric patients (<18 years of age); studies including data on diagnostic workup and treatment.

Data extraction: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.

Results: Sixteen studies involving 180 patients were included. An overwhelming majority of patients were young adolescent males (70%). The most common intracranial complications were subdural empyema (49%), epidural abscess (36%), cerebral abscess (21%), and meningitis (10%). Patients most often presented with nonspecific symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Computed tomography with contrast or magnetic resonance imaging confirmed the diagnosis when intracranial complications were suspected. Typical treatment included surgical incision and drainage, often involving joint neurosurgical and otolaryngological procedures, combined with a long course of antibiotics. The morbidity rate was 27%, and the mortality rate was 3.3%.

Limitations: All studies were retrospective chart reviews, case series or case reports.

Conclusions: A review of the currently available literature shows that with a high degree of suspicion, multidisciplinary cooperation and aggressive treatment, favorable outcomes are attainable. The most effective surgical treatment for intracranial complications remains unclear and should be investigated further.

Keywords: Intracranial complications; Pediatric; Sinus disease; Sinusitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Brain Diseases / therapy
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Rhinitis / complications*
  • Sinusitis / complications*