Gradenigo syndrome: Unusual consequence of otitis media

Jennie M. Valles, Robert Fekete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: In 1904, Giuseppe Gradenigo published his case series on the triad of ipsilateral abducens nerve palsy, facial pain in the trigeminal nerve distribution, and suppurative otitis media, which would subsequently be referred to as Gradenigo syndrome. Case Report: Our patient was a 36-year-old female, 23 weeks pregnant, with a 6-day history of right-sided otalgia and hearing loss and a 4-day history of purulent otorrhea, who presented with severe, holocephalic headache, meningeal signs, fever, photophobia, and mental status decline. Lumbar puncture yielded a white blood cell count of 1,559 cells/mm3 with 95% polymorphonuclear leukocytes, a red blood cell count of 111 cells/mm3, a protein level of 61 mg/dl, and a glucose level of <40 mg/dl. Cerebrospinal fluid Gram stain showed Gram-positive diplococci, which were subsequently identified as Streptococcus pneumoniae and treated with ceftriaxone. On the second hospital day, she developed horizontal diplopia due to right abducens nerve palsy and right mydriasis. Both symptoms resolved on the third hospital day. Erosion of temporal bone and opacification of mastoid air cells was shown on CT scan. A CT venogram showed an irregularity of the left transverse and superior sagittal sinuses. She was treated with enoxaparin for possible sinus thrombosis. Discussion: This case demonstrates rare but serious sequelae of otitis media and Gradenigo syndrome. Holocephalic headache from meningitis masked trigeminal pain. Involvement of the ipsilateral petrous apex and surrounding structures on imaging and clinical improvement with antibiotic treatment supports Gradenigo syndrome over intracranial hypertension due to venous sinus thrombosis as the cause of the abducens nerve palsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-201
Number of pages5
JournalCase Reports in Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 16 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Apical petrositis
  • Gradenigo syndrome
  • Mastoiditis
  • Meningitis
  • Otitis media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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