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Acute mastoiditis--the antibiotic era: a multicenter study.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the clinical course and identify the causative organisms of acute mastoiditis in a community where most of the patients who develop acute otitis media are treated with antibiotics.

METHODS: A multicenter retrospective review of a series of 223 consecutive cases of acute mastoiditis.

SETTING: Nine secondary or tertiary academic or non-academic referral centers.

RESULTS: Prior to the diagnosis of acute mastoiditis, 121 of the patients (54.3%) had been receiving oral antibiotic treatment for acute otitis media for periods ranging from 1 to 21 days (mean 5.3 days). Samples for bacterial culture were obtained from 152 patients. Cultures were negative in 60 patients. The organisms isolated in the 92 positive cultures were: Streptococcus pneumoniae (15 patients), Streptococcus pyogenes (14 patients), Staphylococcus aureus (13 patients), Staphylococcus coagulase negative (three patients), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (eight patients), Haemophilus influenzae (four patients), Proteus mirabilis (two patients), Escherichia coli (two patients), Klebsiella pneumoniae (one patient), Enterobacter (one patient), Acinetobacter (one patient), anaerobic gram-negative bacilli (one patient), and fungi (two patients). Ten patients had mixed flora. Sixteen patients presented with complications (cerebellar abscess, perisinus empyema, subdural abscess or empyema, extradural abscess, cavernous sinus thrombosis, lateral sinus thrombosis, bacterial meningitis, labyrinthitis, petrositis, or facial nerve palsy).

CONCLUSIONS: Antibiotic treatment cannot be considered an absolute safeguard against the development of acute mastoiditis. Early myringotomy for acute otitis media seems to decrease the incidence of complications. The distribution of causative organisms in acute mastoiditis differs from that in acute otitis media. Intracranial complications in acute mastoiditis are not rare. Because of the diversity of causative organisms in acute mastoiditis and the growing resistance of bacteria to the various antibiotics, all means to obtain a sample for culture prior to antibiotic treatment, including general anesthesia.

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