Suppurative Intracranial Complications of Sinusitis

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To familiarize the contemporary surgeon with the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and appropriate management of suppurative intracranial complications of sinusitis.

Study Design:

Retrospective chart review.


All patients admitted to the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center with a diagnosis of intracranial suppuration between 1992 and 1997 were reviewed.


One hundred seventy-six cases were identified, of which 15 patients had 22 suppurative intracranial complications of sinusitis. These were epidural abscess (23%), subdural empyema (18%), meningitis (18%), cerebral abscess (14%), superior sagittal sinus thrombosis (9%), cavernous sinus thrombosis (9%), and osteomyelitis (9%).


The diagnosis of suppurative intracranial complications of sinusitis requires a high index of suspicion and confirmation by imaging. Central to the success of treatment is the management of the primary source of sepsis within the paranasal sinuses in combination with neurosurgical drainage and intravenous antibiotics. This approach has resulted in a mortality rate of 7% and morbidity of 13%, which compare favorably with previous series.

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