Osteomyelitis of the base of the skull

Laryngoscope. 1986 Mar;96(3):245-51. doi: 10.1288/00005537-198603000-00003.


Infection in the marrow of the temporal, occipital, and sphenoid bones is an uncommon, but increasing occurrence. It is usually secondary to infections beginning in the external auditory canal and is caused almost uniformly by the gram negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. Technetium and gallium scintigraphy help in the early detection of such infections while CT scans demonstrate dissolution of bone in well-developed cases. Headache is the predominant symptom. Dysphagia, hoarseness, and aspiration herald the inevitable march of cranial nerves. We have diagnosed and treated 17 cases of osteomyelitis of the skull base. Although the total mortality rate is 53%, it is now a curable disease. Six of our last 8 patients remain alive, although 1 is still under treatment. Treatment is medical and requires the long-term concomitant intravenous administration of an aminoglycoside and a broad spectrum semisynthetic penicillin effective against the causative organism.

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diphosphonates
  • Gallium Radioisotopes
  • Humans
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis*
  • Osteomyelitis / drug therapy
  • Osteomyelitis / etiology
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / complications
  • Pseudomonas Infections / complications
  • Skull* / diagnostic imaging
  • Technetium
  • Technetium Compounds*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Diphosphonates
  • Gallium Radioisotopes
  • Technetium Compounds
  • Technetium
  • technetium Tc 99m diphosphonate