Gradenigo syndrome

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 13 Jun 2022

Gradenigo syndrome consists of the triad of:

Additionally patients tend to suffer intractable otorrhea and pain in the region of the ophthalmic and maxillary branches of the trigeminal nerve.

The incidence of this condition has significantly diminished since the antibiotic era, however, it is still occasionally observed, and often diagnosed late due to the subtlety of the symptoms 4.

The classic constellation of symptoms is described above, however, it is important to note that not all patients will present with the complete triad. In addition, other symptoms may include:

Further spread of infection may give rise to complications, including:

The syndrome typically arises as a consequence of chronic suppurative otitis media spreading to the petrous apex of the temporal bone, resulting in petrous apicitis. The trigeminal ganglion and abducens nerve lie in close proximity to the petrous apex, within Meckel cave and the Dorello canal respectively. Extradural inflammation due to petrous apicitis may therefore affect these nearby structures and give rise to the classical symptoms of Gradenigo syndrome 4. Common pathogens are Pseudomonas and Enterococcus spp. 

Findings may include bone destruction, opacification of the petromastoid air cells, and intracranial abscess formation 4.

MRI can aid differentiation between neoplasia and infection, as well as being superior to CT in demonstrating the inflammatory changes of petrous apicitis 5.  

The mainstay of treatment is antibiotic therapy 4. Rare cases may require surgical intervention.

Gradenigo syndrome was first described in 1907 by Giuseppe Conte Gradenigo (1859-1926), an Italian otolaryngologist 2,3

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