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Acute abducens nerve palsy and weight loss due to skull base osteomyelitis

Jenson C S Mak, Lawrence H Kim, Lawrence T C Ong and Triet M Bui
Med J Aust 2010; 192 (12): 719-720.
Published online: 21 June 2010

A 90-year-old man presented to the emergency department with multiple symptoms including double vision, reduced mobility, dysphagia, recent rapid weight loss, ear discharge and deafness. He had diabetes and other chronic medical problems, including otitis media with mastoiditis. This case highlights the difficulty of investigating weight loss in older people, who may not show the usual clinical features of infection, and of distinguishing between infection and malignancy when radiological findings are inconclusive. His eventual diagnosis was osteomyelitis of the skull base with cranial nerve involvement.

A 90-year-old, previously fit Estonian man was admitted to hospital from the emergency department (ED) with multiple symptoms including acute diplopia, difficulty with walking, several falls over 2 weeks, decreased taste sensation, dysphagia with solids over several months, a 10 kg weight loss over 5 months, and a 6-week history of otalgia, aural fullness, otorrhea, and deafness. Four months earlier, the patient had presented to the ED with acute onset of left facial nerve palsy, dysphonia and dysphagia. The facial nerve palsy had resolved spontaneously after 2 weeks without specific treatment.

  • Jenson C S Mak1,2
  • Lawrence H Kim3
  • Lawrence T C Ong4
  • Triet M Bui4

  • 1 Department of Geriatric Medicine, Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Gosford Hospital, Gosford, NSW.
  • 2 Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery, Sydney South-West Area Health Service, Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Department of Aged Care and Rehabilitation, Sydney South-West Area Health Service, Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, Sydney, NSW.

Correspondence: jenson.mak@gmail.com

Competing interests:

None identified.

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