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Acute mastoiditis in children: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About acute mastoiditis in children

Acute mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone which is a small bone containing air spaces and connecting with the ear. It is a serious condition and needs early identification and treatment, in order to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.

Acute mastoiditis in children: Incidence, age and sex

Acute mastoiditis usually occurs as a complication of middle ear infections. Its incidence has reduced over the years with increased use of antibiotics for treating ear infections. The incidence is estimated to be 1 in 25,000 persons per year.

Signs and symptoms of acute mastoiditis in children: Diagnosis

Children with acute mastoiditis present with pain, redness and swelling behind the ear. Because of swelling behind the ear, the ear may appear to be pushed slightly down and out. There may be pus discharge from the ear. High temperature is usually present and may cause the child to become irritable. Pulse rate may be high and the child may become dehydrated.

Diagnosis is suspected by detailed examination of the ear. A CT scan is usually done in order to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of infection. Blood tests like white cell count are done for diagnosis and monitoring the response to therapy. Culture of pus is done to identify the causative bacteria and to determine susceptibility to antibiotics.

Causes and prevention of acute mastoiditis in children

Acute mastoiditis occurs most often secondary to an acute bacterial infection of the middle ear. Prevention can be achieved by prompt treatment of ear infection and early administration of antibiotics.

Acute mastoiditis in children: Complications

If early treatment is not instituted, the infection may spread to the brain leading to meningitis and brain abscess. The infection may also become widespread in the bloodstream leading to septicemia. All these conditions are life-threatening and may need prolonged hospitalization and treatment. In addition, there may be damage to the middle ear, leading to hearing loss.

Acute mastoiditis in children: Treatment

Acute mastoiditis is best treated in the hospital. Intravenous antibiotics may be needed to control infection. Drainage of the middle ear may also be needed. If there is pus collection in the mastoid, surgical drainage of the same may be required. In case, the infection does not resolve, the child may require a surgical procedure called mastoidectomy, in which the air cells inside the mastoid are removed.