(Acute mastoiditis)



Mastoiditis is swelling or infection of the small air cells in the mastoid bone of the ear. Over time, this can cause the bone tissue to break down.


Mastoiditis is most often caused by a bacterial infection due to a long lasting middle ear infection.

The Middle Ear

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in young children. Things that may raise the risk are:

  • A weak immune system
  • Recent surgery to remove diseased mastoid air cells


Problems may be:

  • Swelling and redness behind the ear, pushing it forward
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Irritability
  • Decreased hearing


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked about your history of ear infections. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


Treatment options are:


Antibiotics will be given to treat infection. This is often done by IV and then by mouth.


Surgery may be needed when medicine does not help. This can be done with:

  • Myringotomy and tympanostomy to drain fluid and place tubes in the ear to keep the middle ear open to prevent fluid build-up
  • Mastoidectomy to remove the mastoid bone


Mastoiditis is most often caused by an ear infection. Getting treated for an ear infection may lower the risk of mastoiditis.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery


Acute mastoiditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated July 11, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2019.
Kordeluk S, Kraus M, et al. Challenges in the management of acute mastoiditis in children. Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2015 May;17(5):479.
Mastoiditis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2019. Accessed December 3, 2019.
Mastoiditis. NHS Choices website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 13, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 12/3/2019

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.