A 78-year-old male with a past medical history of Lewy body dementia, hypertension on bisoprolol, hypothyroidism, COPD, chronic lower extremity edema on furosemide, and overactive bladder on oxybutynin presented to the emergency department for evaluation of three days of progressively worsening left-sided neck and facial swelling. Associated symptoms included poor oral intake, a nonproductive cough, and one week of sore throat.
HEENT: Firm, tender, warm and erythematous swelling over the left mandibular ramus that extended to the cheek, left neck, and spread caudally into the supraclavicular region and anterior chest. There were no identifiable hard masses or areas of fluctuance. Further inspection of the oral cavity revealed dry mucous membranes, poor dental hygiene without identifiable dental abscess, tonsils were normal size and equal bilaterally, and uvula was midline. Direct pressure externally over the area of concern revealed purulent discharge from Stenson’s duct.
Acute suppurative parotitis (ASP) is a serious bacterial infection of the parotid gland that occurs in patients with diminished salivary flow, increased susceptibility to infection, and poor oral hygiene. Our patient had multiple risk factors for this disease which can include dehydration, advanced age, sialolithiasis, medications (diuretics, beta-blockers, antihistamines, phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, anticholinergics), and certain disorders including diabetes, HIV, hypothyroidism, Sjogren’s syndrome. The most common organisms responsible for ASP are Staphylococcus aureus and oral flora anaerobes.
The most feared complications include supraglottitis, cervical necrotizing fasciitis, and other deep neck space infections which can be surgical emergencies and rarely cause impending airway obstruction. Further central and vascular complications include brain abscess, central venous thrombosis, and Lemierre’s syndrome
The role of bedside ultrasound in acute suppurative parotitis can help to rule out a superficial abscess or sialolithiasis. CT scan is beneficial in ruling out deep space infections as a complication from this disease process or other causes of head and neck swelling.
ASP-associated complications are rare but can lead to significant morbidity and mortality secondary to the parotid gland’s proximity to vital structures and ability to spread to adjacent deep spaces.
Emergency medicine physicians will manage acute suppurative parotitis and must be aware of the potential complications when determining safe disposition and appropriate treatment.
Markovich A, Ronen O. Factors predicting length of stay in patients hospitalized for acute parotitis. J Investig Med. 2021 Feb;69(2):388-392. doi: 10.1136/jim-2020-001506. Epub 2020 Oct 21. PMID: 33087427.