- After a man cleaned his ears with cotton swabs, one of the tips got stuck in his inner ear which caused him to develop a very serious infection that expanded to his brain meninges.
- Though the infection did not reach the brain, there were still neurological symptoms which the man suffered from including seizures, severe headaches and discharges from the left side of the head.
- CT scan readings showed that the man had an infection in the soft tissues of the external ear canal.
According to a new case report, a man from England developed a severe infection that progressed to the lining of his brain and caused neurological symptoms when after cleaning his ears with a cotton swab, a swab tip got stuck inside his ear canal.
Starting from his ear canal, a serious bacterial infection developed and spread into the bone at the base of the skull then upward into the brain lining and meninges, reports Dr. Alexander Charlton, lead author and member of the team involved in the patient’s treatment at University Hospital Coventry in England.
Although the infection did not reach outside the lining, neurological symptoms persisted. After experiencing a seizure and collapsing, the 31-year-old man was rushed to the emergency room. Charlton suspects that the seizure may be triggered by either toxin from the bacterial infection or pressure on the brain.
However, the report also says that the man’s symptoms have started long before the seizure. Ten days prior, he experienced pain and discharge from the left ear, severe headaches on the left side that made him sick and even had memory problems.
He also told doctors that for the past five years, he was treated twice for severe ear infections on the left side, and have experienced left ear pain and hearing loss.
Based on the CT scan images, there were two inflamed areas with pus in the bones at the base of his skull, adjacent to his left ear canal. This means that even though infection may have originated from the man’s inner ear canal, it had extended outside that area. The man was pronounced to have ‘necrotizing otitis externa’ or infection in the external auditory canal’s soft tissue.
Doctors performed minor surgery on the man during which the missing cotton tip was found and removed.Charlton said that the fact that the swab was impacted and filled with debris indicates that it had been there for quite some time and may have contributed to the man’s repeated ear infections over the years.
To treat the infection, intravenous and oral antibiotics were administered to the patient for about two months.
While he no longer had hearing or thinking problems after treatment, he was perhaps advised never to use cotton swabs again to clean his ears. Charlton says that cotton swabs have been connected with ear infections, punctured eardrums and impacted ear wax.
The case was published online in the journal BMJ Case Reports on March 6.
Source: CBS News