Mastoiditis is a serious bacterial infection of the mastoid bone. This bone is one of the bones in the head; it’s located behind the ear. It is made of cells that drain the middle ear. 

Mastoiditis is a complication of a middle-ear infection; it happens when an infection in the middle ear spreads into the mastoid bone. If not diagnosed and treated promptly, it can become even more serious, resulting in such complications as:

•    Hearing loss
•    Serious infection in nearby tissue
•    Facial nerve damage
•    Inner ear problems
•    Inflammation or infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)

While mastoiditis is more common in children, adults can also be affected.

It’s important to know that the otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) at Cooper University Health Care have extensive experience in treating mastoiditis in children and adults. 

Risk Factors for Mastoiditis

The most common risk factors for mastoiditis include:

  • A recent middle ear infection [LINK to Otitis Media Ear Infection page] that was not treated with antibiotics
  • A weak immune system
  • An abnormal skin growth in the middle ear known as cholesteatoma

Symptoms of Mastoiditis

These are the most common symptoms of mastoiditis:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling behind the ear
  • Ear pain
  • An ear lobe that sticks out because of swelling of the mastoid bone
  • Fever
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss

How Mastoiditis Is Diagnosed

Your child’s (or your) healthcare provider will ask questions about your child’s (or your) health history and current symptoms, then conduct a physical examination, paying close attention to the ears, nose, and throat. The provider will use a lighted instrument called an otoscope to look at the middle ear. 

Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended, including:

  • Diagnostic imaging: X-rays and/or CT scans of the mastoid area may be necessary to determine the extent of the infection. 
  • Laboratory testing: Fluid from the middle ear may be sent to the lab to determine the type of infection that is present

How Mastoiditis Is Treated

Treatment will depend on symptoms, the age and general health of the patient, and how severe the condition is. Treatment usually involves:

  • Antibiotic medicine to treat a bacterial infection
  • Draining fluid in the middle ear

Surgery may be indicated when a patient has repeated middle ear infections [LINK to Otitis Media Ear Infections page] or hearing loss caused by persistent middle ear fluid. This involves the placement of ear tubes and is performed in the hospital under anesthesia.

Mastoiditis is usually treated by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) healthcare provider. It is very important to attend all follow-up appointments to check for hearing problems and other possible complications after a diagnosis of mastoiditis.

Why Choose Us to Treat Mastoiditis

With advanced specialty training in ear, nose, and throat issues, our otolaryngologists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat mastoiditis in children and adults. They have extensive experience in managing this condition both medically and surgically, which translates into the best possible outcomes for you or your child. 

Contact Us

To learn more about the services available in the Division of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.3113.