Mediastinitis and bilateral pleural empyema caused by an odontogenic infection

Mirna Juretic 1 , Margita Belusic-Gobic 1 , Melita Kukuljan 3 , Robert Cerovic 1 , Vesna Golubovic 2  and David Gobic 4
  • 1 Clinic for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Clinical hospital, Rijeka, Croatia
  • 2 Clinic for Anaesthesiology and Reanimatology, Clinical hospital, Rijeka, Croatia
  • 3 Department of Radiology, Clinical hospital, Rijeka, Croatia
  • 4 Clinic for Internal Medicine, Clinical hospital, Rijeka, Croatia

Mediastinitis and bilateral pleural empyema caused by an odontogenic infection

Background. Although odontogenic infections are relatively frequent in the general population, intrathoracic dissemination is a rare complication. Acute purulent mediastinitis, known as descending necrotizing mediastinitis (DNM), causes high mortality rate, even up to 40%, despite high efficacy of antibiotic therapy and surgical interventions. In rare cases, unilateral or bilateral pleural empyema develops as a complication of DNM.

Case report. This case report presents the treatment of a young, previously healthy patient with mediastinitis and bilateral pleural empyema caused by an odontogenic infection. After a neck and pharynx re-incision, and as CT confirmed propagation of the abscess to the thorax, thoracotomy was performed followed by CT-controlled thoracic drainage with continued antibiotic therapy. The patient was cured, although the recognition of these complications was relatively delayed.

Conclusions. Early diagnosis of DNM can save the patient, so if this severe complication is suspected, thoracic CT should be performed.

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