Purulent labyrinthitis is a bacterial infection involving the inner ear that often results to balance loss and deafness. This condition typically occurs once bacteria enter the inner ear during a severe infection of the middle ear or certain forms of meningitis or as a complication of a fractured temporal bone of the skull.
It can also occur as a complication of a chronically perforated eardrum especially if the individual has a cholesteatoma.
What are the indications?
The signs and symptoms of purulent labyrinthitis include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe vertigo and nystagmus
- Fluctuating degrees of hearing loss
In some individuals, fever and pain are also present.
How is it diagnosed
The doctor will suspect purulent labyrinthitis if an individual has vertigo, hearing loss, nystagmus or combination of these during an episode of acute otitis media. A CT scan of the skull is performed to check for anomalies of the temporal bone which contains the inner and middle ear, bones of the inner ear and the bone behind the ear. The doctor might also request for an MRI to check if the infection spreads into the brain.
If an individual has symptoms of meningitis such as stiff neck, confusion or high fever, the doctor will perform a lumbar puncture and a sample of the spinal fluid is sent to the laboratory for culture.
Management of purulent labyrinthitis
Treatment for purulent labyrinthitis involves antibiotics given intravenously. The doctor will also perform myringotomy which involves the creation of an opening via the eardrum to allow the drainage of fluid from the middle ear.
Some individuals might require an extensive surgical procedure to get rid of a region or the entire bone behind the ear.