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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

About mastoid air cell disease

06/05/2006

Question:

My 5 yr old grandson recently had and MRI and was dx with Mastoid Air Cell Disease, Would you please give me a brief definition, treatments, and tell me if this is or could be a life threatening disease? Thank you!

Answer:

"Mastoid air cell disease" in a 5 year old child, diagnosed by MRI is typically not a life-threatening disease. Very common things in children (such as fluid in the ears) can result in an MRI scan that is interpreted as showing "mastoid air cell disease". Some completely healthy and asymptomatic people can undergo an MRI scan and show what appears to be signal or enhancement in the mastoid - which would then be interpreted as "mastoid air cell disease". The results of an MRI scan in this setting are usually completely dependent upon the circumstances. If a child has a long history of ear infections, chronic ear pain, drainage, hearing loss, etc, then the findings of mastoid air cell disease on MRI are important and could very well indicate a serious problem that needs treatment. If on the other hand, a completely asymptomatic child (no ear complaints at all) undergoes an MRI for another unrelated reason, and the MRI incidentally shows some signal or enhancement in the mastoid, then those findings are typically not important and don't require treatment. Based upon the history, the physical exam and then the subsequent interpretation of the MRI, treatment could range from simple observation with no treatment, to antibiotics, to surgery to clean out the mastoid air cells.

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Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati