What Is Mastoid Surgery?

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  • Written By: Darlene Zagata
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Mastoid surgery, also known as a mastoidectomy, is an operation to remove infected or damaged portions of the mastoid bone, which is the bone behind the ear. The mastoid bone has small spaces inside it known as air cells. Chronic infection of the middle ear can spread to the mastoid bone, causing the bone to break down. Mastoid surgery might be performed for one of several reasons, such as to remove infected air cells, to remove a tumor or to repair a damaged eardrum.

This surgery might be necessary when antibiotics cannot clear up an infection of the air cells. The purpose of this type of mastoid surgery is to completely remove infection and restore the ear to a healthy state. Mastoid surgery also might be necessary if a person develops a cholesteatoma, which is a mass of tissue that can develop inside the ear and could result in hearing loss and/or destruction of the mastoid bone. The type of mastoid surgery that is performed will depend on the extent of disease or damage and whether part or all of the mastoid bone needs to be removed.


Mastoid surgery is performed after the patient is given a general anesthetic to put him or her to sleep for the procedure. An incision is made behind the ear to remove the mastoid bone or infected portions of the bone. The wound is stitched up, a drainage tube is inserted, and a dressing is applied. The tube usually is removed within a day or two after the surgery. Mastoid surgery might be performed on an outpatient basis, or hospitalization might be required for observation purposes, depending on the condition that prompted the need for the procedure.

Pain medication and antibiotics usually are prescribed, along with ear drops. Steroids might also be given to prevent nausea and facial swelling. Follow-up visits to a healthcare professional's office usually will be necessary in the weeks after mastoid surgery to assess the patient's recovery and check for infection.


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