August 29, 2013

Sinus Infection Leads to Skull Removal in Child

The UK reported a 9 years old boy who had an extremely rare sinusitis complication that ultimately resulted in the left skull being removed temporarily.

Briefly, in Feb 2013, the child developed headaches and a droopy eyelid. Surgeons ultimately had to remove his left skull due to brain swelling and concern the bone itself was infected. Over the next few months, the child had to wear a bike helmet to protect his brain which was no longer protected by his skull. A few weeks ago, he underwent another surgery to cover the hole in his left skull with a custom-shaped ceramic plate.

No mention was made in the media about which sinus cavity led to this horrible problem.

But here's a guess without benefit of more information...

Based on the skull defect shown (see pics here), it appears that the parietal and temporal skull bones were removed. There are actually no sinus cavities in these regions. As such, the only thing that makes sense to me is that the left cerebral dural sinus (large blood vessels of the brain) became clotted off and infected secondary to a sinus infection, probably the ethmoid sinus cavities located between the eyes.

The blood supply from the ethmoid sinus cavities communicates with the cavernous sinus found at the bottom of the brain. This anatomic structure is a major source of venous drainage of the brain.

If the cavernous sinus gets inflamed/infected due to a sinus infection, it could lead to multiple facial abnormalities due to injury of the numerous cranial nerves that go through it including:

• Inability to move the eyeballs (CN3, 4, 6)
• Numbness, pain of the skin over the forehead and cheeks (CNV1, V2)
• Loss of pupillary constriction (CN3)
• Visual loss/changes (CN1)

Ultimately, the cavernous sinus could also become thrombosed.

Cavernous Sinus shown by red arrow. Taken from Sonoworld.

From there, the infection can spread to the rest of the brain via the dural sinus cavities and potentially can even lead to death if not treated promptly and aggressively.

How aggressively? In this particular case, the child had half his skull removed!

Thankfully, the vast, vast, vast majority of sinus infections do not lead anywhere close to this type of complication.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

Banner Map

Pediatric Neck Masses

Adult Neck Mass Workup