Intracranial complications of acute mastoiditis: Surgery not always necessary

Am J Otolaryngol. 2024 Jul-Aug;45(4):104299. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2024.104299. Epub 2024 Apr 19.


Introduction: Acute mastoiditis (AM) can rapidly become life-threatening with various intracranial complications. The standard care includes antibiotics, mastoidectomy, and drainage. Reports show varying preferences for conservative and surgical treatments, with a more conservative approach gaining popularity. In this study we aim to evaluate the presenting symptoms, management and outcomes of patients presenting with intracranial complications secondary to acute mastoiditis.

Methods: Retrospective review for all children admitted for acute mastoiditis for 12 years period (January 2010-December 2021). Children who had mastoiditis associated with intracranial complications were included in the study. STROBE guidelines were followed in this study.

Results: 23 patients were diagnosed with acute mastoiditis with intracranial complications. The mean age was 2.1 years. The most common presenting sign was fever, followed by otalgia. The most common pathogens were Fusobacterium necrophorum and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The most common intracranial complication was sinus vein thrombosis (SVT) affecting 13 patients. Eventually, 10 patients underwent cortical mastoidectomy during 1-6 days upon admission, with an average of 3.2 days. During the follow-up period patients were monitored for clinical progression. Patients who did not show clinical improvement such as persistent fever, worsening symptoms, or the presence of neurological symptoms were treated surgically. The length of stay was an average of 15.5 days overall, with no significantly longer hospital stay in patients who were treated surgically compared to patients who were treated conservatively (17.1 days vs. 14.2 days, P = .26).

Conclusion: Intracranial complications of acute mastoiditis remain a significant challenge. Selected patients with intracranial complications can be treated conservatively with close monitoring, without increasing the risk of immediate or long-term complications. Initial antimicrobial treatment should cover anaerobic bacteria, as it correlates with severe complications.

Keywords: Acute mastoiditis; Acute otitis media; Conservative treatment; Intracranial complications; Management.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Earache / etiology
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Mastoidectomy / methods
  • Mastoiditis* / complications
  • Mastoiditis* / etiology
  • Mastoiditis* / microbiology
  • Mastoiditis* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / etiology
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents