Diagnosis and Management of Children With Mycobacterium abscessus Infections in the Head and Neck

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2018 Sep;76(9):1902-1911. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2018.03.016. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Purpose: Controversy exists regarding the most appropriate treatment strategy for children with nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) cervical lymphadenitis. Mycobacterium abscessus (MAB) is an uncommon cause of NTM cervical lymphadenitis. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate diagnosis, management, and treatment outcomes in children with MAB-associated cervical lymphadenitis resulting from a pulpotomy.

Materials and methods: This was a retrospective chart review of children with NTM lymphadenitis of the head and neck caused by MAB treated at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals (Atlanta, GA). The predictor variables were patient demographics, dental history, clinical presentation, imaging characteristics, laboratory findings, histopathologic examination, treatment, and complications. The outcome variable was disease resolution or persistence.

Results: Twenty-two patients (mean age, 6.5 yr) met the inclusion criteria. All patients had pulpotomy at 1 dental practice. The mean time from dental procedure to symptom onset was 43.1 days (range, 3 to 180 days). Children presented with cervical or submandibular swelling, facial swelling, gingival erythema, and skin erythema. Radiographic findings were submandibular or cervical lymphadenitis, maxillary or mandibular osteolysis, subcutaneous abscess, and pulmonary nodules. All children had confirmed or probable MAB infection diagnosed on the pathologic specimen. There were 2 distinct patient presentations that guided surgical management: isolated noninflammatory cervical lymphadenitis, which was partly or completely excised (n = 11), and adjacent extension or disseminated infection requiring subtotal lymph node excision, bone debridement, and postoperative antibiotics (n = 11). Most children required multiple surgical interventions to remove infected tissues. All achieved clinical resolution.

Conclusion: In this cohort, treatment of NTM lymphadenitis caused by MAB depended on extent of disease and virulence of bacteria. When complete surgical excision was possible, disease resolution was achieved. However, in cases with adjacent extension or dissemination infection, postoperative antibiotics were necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Debridement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / etiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / therapy*
  • Pulpotomy / adverse effects
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / etiology
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents