Infected Mastoid Air Cells

Mastoiditis is usually caused by a middle ear infection (acute otitis media). The infection may spread from the ear to the mastoid bone of the skull. The mastoid bone fills with infected materials and its honeycomb-like structure may deteriorate. Mastoiditis usually affects children. Before antibiotics, mastoiditis was one of the leading causes of death in children. Now it is a relatively uncommon and much less dangerous condition.

Common Symptoms of Mastoiditis

  • Drainage from the ear

  • Ear pain or discomfort

  • Fever (may be high or suddenly increase)

  • Headache

  • Hearing loss

  • Redness of the ear or behind the ear

  • Swelling behind the ear and may cause ear to stick out

Treatment Options For Infected Mastoid Air Cells


Located behind the ear, the mastoid bone connects to the middle ear and contains many air-filled spaces when healthy. Ear infections or disease in the ear or elsewhere can cause those spaces to fill with fluid, mucus or excess tissue (such as a cholesteatoma, a benign tumor that may grow out of a healing perforated ear drum and cause hearing damage).

When medications and other non-surgical treatments such as antibiotics or professional cleaning fail to resolve the problem, mastoidectomy – surgical drainage – may be performed.

Complications from surgery are rare but may include drainage from the ear, infection, temporary dizziness or loss of taste on one side of the tongue, hearing loss and, rarely, nerve injury to the side of the face operated upon.


A tympanoplasty may be recommended for chronic ear infections and/or symptoms of hearing loss.

Myringotomy with the insertion of ear tubes is an optional treatment for inflammation of the middle ear. During a myringotomy, an incision is made into the ear drum, or tympanic membrane. The fluid in the ear canal is suctioned out, and a small tube is put in place to allow future drainage in the event of an infection.

Myringotomy is the most frequently performed ear operation and the second-most common surgical procedure in children younger than two. It is performed to drain fluid from the ear, restore lost hearing, relieve pain and prevent infections. During a myringotomy, an opening is made in the eardrum to drain excess fluid. The surgeon may then insert a tube that will remain in place for a few months. After surgery, drainage should stop and the hole in the eardrum should heal on its own. However, a small percentage of patients require a second procedure.