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What Is the Most Common Treatment for Mastoiditis?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common treatment for mastoiditis is antibiotic medication, although surgery and drainage are also sometimes used in severe cases. Antibiotics may be delivered over a long period of time, especially if the infection is highly progressed. The type of medications used will vary, but often a broad spectrum antibiotic is used as a first treatment. Sometimes the bacteria is cultured and then a more targeted antibiotic may be used.

Mastoiditis is an infection affecting the mastoid bone. This bone is located just behind the ear, and it has areas of open air, similar to a honeycomb. The open shape allows infection to spread into the area more easily. Mastoiditis is often caused by a severe inner ear infection which goes untreated and is allowed to spread. If mastoiditis is left untreated, a more widespread and serious infection can occur.

In most cases, treatment for mastoiditis involves the use of powerful antibiotic drugs. They are often injected directly into the affected area for better absorption and faster delivery. Once this has been done for several doses, the patient will usually be switched to an oral antibiotic. This condition can be hard to treat, and sometimes several rounds of medication are needed for full effectiveness.

Occasionally, treatment for mastoiditis is much more invasive. The ear may be drained of infection to alleviate pressure and to culture the bacteria. In very severe cases, the mastoid bone itself may be removed in order to cure long-term reinfection. Sometimes, the inner ear is also removed to prevent recurrent ear infections. This leads to partial or total hearing loss in many cases, depending on how much of the ear has to be removed.

Treatment for mastoiditis is not pleasant and involves ongoing injections and treatment in many cases. This is mainly due to the fact that most infections of the mastoid bone do not occur until an ear infection has already been allowed to worsen over time and spread. Additional secondary infections may also be present. These will require additional treatment. If left to worsen, mastoiditis can eventually infect the brain, bloodstream, and other areas of the body.

Although treatment for mastoiditis is not generally effective, this condition used to be a major cause of death for young children before the use of antibiotics. Children are still the most commonly affected, primarily because they are the most susceptible to inner ear infection. Symptoms of mastoiditis may include pain behind one or both ears, fever, drainage from the ear, hearing loss, or swelling.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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