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Diagnostic challenges in otogenic brain abscesses

Tina Kissow Lildal, Jakob Korsholm & Therese Ovesen

9. jun. 2014
2 min.


Otogenic brain abscess (OBA) is a rare complication to otitis media, but one with a potentially devastating outcome. Early diagnosis of OBA is crucial for successful treatment. The objective of this study was to determine the incidence of OBA in a Danish population and to describe its clinical manifestation, management and outcome.

Material and methods

A total of 93 patients were retrospectively enrolled by diagnosis codes for brain abscess from 1999 to 2010. Records were reviewed to register age, symptoms, clinical findings, co-morbidity, imaging, microbiology and treatment.


Seven were found to have had an otogenic focus of infection. The incidence of OBA was 1/million, and the mean age was 43 years, ranging from ten to 81 years. Five patients had acute otitis media and two had infectious cholesteatoma. Four had previously suffered a head trauma. The young patients presented with symptoms indicative of meningitis and the elderly patients with symptoms resembling a stroke. None of the patients were treated with antibiotics before admission to hospital.
No mortalities occurred, but three had sequelae in the form of hearing loss and/or neurological impairment.


The OBAs manifested with symptoms mimicking meningitis in young patients and stroke in elderly patients. Absence of fever does not rule out OBA; and regardless of any present ear symptoms, an ear nose and throat examination should be performed without delay to locate the focus of infection and to facilitate targeted treatment.


Not relevant.

Trial Registration

Not relevant.

Correspondence: Tina Kissow Lildal. E-mail:

Conflicts of interest: none. Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at

REFERENCE: Dan Med J 2014;61(6):A4849