Otogenic Temporomandibular Arthritis in Children

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Septic arthritis of the temporomandibular joint (SATMJ) is a very rare but potentially severe complication of pediatric middle ear infections because it presents risks of TMJ ankylosis.


To describe the clinical, radiological, biological, and microbiological characteristics and evolution of SATMJ complicating middle ear infections (otogenic SATMJ) in children.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This multicenter retrospective study included all children younger than 18 years referred between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2015, for otogenic SATMJ or for TMJ ankylosis that occurred a few months to a few years after an acute mastoiditis. Nine children were included in the study. Review of the children’s medical charts was conducted from February 1, 2016, to April 1, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Patients’ demographic characteristics and symptoms; radiological, biological, and bacteriological findings, including reanalysis of initial imaging; and treatment and outcome of SATMJ.


Of the 9 children, 6 were boys and 3 were girls; the mean age was 2.1 years (range, 6 months to 4.7 years). In 7 cases (78%), the primary middle ear infection was acute mastoiditis. Clinically, 5 children (55%) had preauricular swelling and only 1 (11%) had trismus. Associated thrombophlebitis of the lateral sinus or intracranial collections was present in 7 cases (78%). An initial computed tomographic scan was performed for all but 1 patient, and second-line analysis detected clear signs of TMJ inflammation in all 8 children who had a computed tomographic scan. However, SATMJ was diagnosed in only 3 cases at the time of the initial middle ear infection, leading to the recommendation of TMJ physical therapy for several months. The most frequently involved bacteria was Fusobacterium necrophorum, which was found in 4 cases. Long-term ankylosis was identified in 6 cases (67%), and 5 of these children required surgical treatment.

Conclusions and Relevance

Clinicians and radiologists must thoroughly look for signs of SATMJ in children with acute mastoiditis to detect this complication, which can lead to disabling and hard-to-treat TMJ ankylosis.

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