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Otol Neurotol. 2003 Jan;24(1):113-7.

Acute otitis media and facial nerve paralysis in adults.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Brescia, Italy.



The pathophysiology and treatment of facial nerve paralysis associated with acute otitis media are still under debate. The objective of this study was to review treatment strategies and extent of recovery in adult patients with the aim of defining a standard treatment protocol for this rare pathologic condition.


Retrospective chart review.


University hospital, tertiary referral center.


Between 1993 and 2000, 11 patients were admitted for facial nerve paralysis secondary to acute otitis media. There were six women and five men without a history of chronic middle ear disease, who ranged in age from 21 to 71 years. Facial palsy was graded with the House-Brackmann scale: four patients had Grade III palsy, six had Grade IV palsy, and one patient had Grade V palsy. Bacteriologic examination of middle ear fluid was performed in four patients Streptococcus pneumoniae was observed in one patient, and the remaining three cultures were negative.


All patients were treated with parenteral ampicillin-sulbactam or a third-generation cephalosporin in conjunction with oral or intravenous corticosteroids, except in a single patient with diabetes mellitus who received antibiotics alone. Myringotomy alone or with ventilation tube application was performed in eight patients. A simple mastoidectomy without facial nerve decompression was used in a patient with sudden impairment to Grade VI paralysis and worsening otitis after an initial improvement.


Normal facial function returned in all patients, independently of the grade of the paralysis, the treatment strategy, or the outcome of the middle ear disease. The time of recovery varied from 2 weeks to 3 months, except for one patient who underwent mastoidectomy and in whom normal function returned in 10 months.


The treatment of facial nerve paralysis secondary to otitis media should be as conservative as possible, using antibiotics and corticosteroids. Myringotomy and a ventilation tube should be added when spontaneous perforation of the tympanic membrane is not present. Mastoidectomy should be performed only when it is necessary to treat otitis media. Facial nerve decompression should not be necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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