Acute Mastoiditis: Our Near Death Experience

What a harrowing few days it has been. As I may have mentioned in other posts, my 5 year old had been sick almost constantly for months. Multiple trips to the doctors and courses of antibiotics that lasted for months… she was still sick and we had no answers as to why. She was in progressively more pain which she said was behind her ear. We knew she had fluid behind the ear, I had just taken her to the ENT and he said she needed tubes in her ears. Was this causing the pain? Were her molars coming in? Allergies? Tylenol and a sock filled with warm rice seemed menial but it was all I could do for her. I felt helpless.

Then then one day she came home from school and I noticed something was definately wrong. The ear she had been having so much pain around was literally pushed out, twisted forward and down. The area behind her ear was mush and swollen and red.


I took her to the pediatrician and they said to go to the ER immediately. OMG!

After being admitted the first thing to do was a CT scan. She was diagnosed with acute mastoiditis which had spread to the lining of her brain. She went right to emergency surgery.

It was the worst mastoid infection the surgeon had seen. He spent hours removing infection and pus. He had to take out what was left of the damaged mastoid bone and then file the remaining bone smooth so it wouldn’t be jagged against her brain. She was stitched up and had a drain tube behind her ear. While he was there, the surgeon went ahead and put tubes in her ears too. He told us had we not brought her in when we did she would not have lived another 24 hours. YIKES!!!

Surgery went well but then it was a waiting game to see what damage was done… possible facial paralysis, sepsis, or brain damage to name a few of the things that could go wrong. Hearing loss is certain but we won’t know to what extent until she is all healed. The area where the bone was removed and the ear canal were filled with an antibiotic foam. With a few steroid drops a day the foam will slowly dissolve over the course of a month.


Five hours after surgery she finally opened her eyes. Such an excruciatingly tense moment… but she recognized me! The doctor checked on her. She was okay! Then we just had to wait and see if the IV antibiotics were working. We had to wait on tests which took a couple of days.

During that time the doctor was amazed at how well she was recovering, considering the extent of the infection and the surgery itself. He had initially told us to expect a two week stay in the hospital but thankfully with her recovering so well and then the tests coming back with good news we were out of there in three days. We are continuing aggressive treatment at home and doctor visits twice a week.

God really answered our prays! I want to tell all you mommies and daddies out there…. do NOT ignore ear infections which is how this all started. Even if you take them to the doctor and they have antibiotics, if your kiddos ever complain of pain behind their ear that won’t go away… insist that they get an immediate CT scan because at that point the infection is already eating through the bone (hence the pain). There is no other way to confirm this infection other than a CT scan. It isn’t your fault or the pediatricians if this infection goes undetected… you just need to know the signs and be prepared before it’s too late. We came entirely too close.



2 thoughts on “Acute Mastoiditis: Our Near Death Experience

  1. Oh, I can’t imagine how frightening this must have been for you and your daughter! Thank you for posting this, I never knew this could happen. I’ll definitely tell my daughter who has three children to keep watch for this if the kids have pain behind their ears. Wow. I’m so glad you caught this in time. She is just so sweet. Love your blog.


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