Complications of otitis media - a potentially lethal problem still present

Norma de Oliveira Penido, Sujana Sreedevi Chandrasekhar, Andrei Borin, André Souza de Albuquerque Maranhão, José Ricardo Gurgel Testa

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27 Scopus citations


Introduction: It is an erroneous but commonly held belief that intracranial complications (ICCs) of chronic and acute otitis media (COM and AOM) are past diseases or from developing countries. These problems remain, despite improvements in antibiotic care. Objective: This paper analyzes the occurrence and clinical characteristics and course of the main ICCs of otitis media (OM). Methods: Retrospective cohort study of 51 patients with ICCs from OM, drawn from all patients presenting with OM to the emergency room of a large inner-city tertiary care hospital over a 22-year period. Results: 80% of cases were secondary to COM of which the incidence of ICC was 0.8%; 20% were due to AOM. The death occurrence was 7.8%, hearing loss in 90%, and permanent neurological sequelae in 29%. Patients were 61% male. In the majority, onset of ear disease had occurred during childhood. Delay of diagnosis of both the initial infection as well as the secondary ICC was significant. ICCs included brain abscess and meningitis in 78%, and lateral sinus thrombosis, empyema and otitic hydrocephalus in 13%, 8% and 1% of cases, respectively. Twenty-seven neurosurgical procedures and 43 otologic surgery procedures were performed. Two patients were too ill for surgical intervention. Conclusion: ICCs of OM, although uncommon, still occur. These cases require expensive, complex and long-term inpatient treatment and frequently result in hearing loss, neurological sequelae and mortality. It is important to be aware of this potentiality in children with COM, especially, and maintain a high index of suspicion in order to refer for otologic specialty care before such complications occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalBrazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain abscess
  • Intracranial complications
  • Meningitis
  • Otitis media


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