Man develops brain deficits from untreated ear infection

Abu Dhabi: Ganga Prasad Reddy found a discharge from his ears, but didn’t think it was anything to worry about. A month or so later, the 33-year-old machine operator had lost the ability to speak, and the right side of his body was completely paralysed.

In fact, Reddy had left an ear infection untreated, and developed complex symptoms which mirrored that of a tumour, Dr Shankar Kutty, consultant neurosurgeon at NMC Speciality Hospital in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

“It may seem simple, but infections can lead to major complications without treatment. In most cases, patients with complications like Reddy’s never fully recover. In fact, when this patient was first brought in to us, his symptoms all pointed to a brain tumour, and earlier scans also indicated a large, cancerous growth on the left frontal side of his brain,” the doctor said.

Due to its size, the tumour appeared to be aggressive. The fear was that the tumour may be pushing on other parts of the brain to make space for itself, which can be life-threatening, Dr Kutty explained, so Reddy was taken up for emergency surgery. Surgeons removed a portion of his skull, only to discover a large pus-filled cavity, measuring six centimetres by three centimetres, which had looked like a tumour.

They drained the abscess and put him on antibiotics. But due to the extensive nature of the surgery, Reddy seemed worse off a day later and his brain had swelled in size. This time, a piece of his skull bone was removed to allow space for the swollen brain to expand. The bone flap was then saved in a pouch in the front part of his stomach wall to keep it viable for replacement later on.

Reddy then remained on antibiotics for a month, and surgeons continued to drain pus that collected in his brain. His bone flap was also eventually replaced.

Following the surgeries, doctors looked into the cause of Reddy’s brain infection.

“Infections can spread to the brain from surrounding organs or tissues, or through the bloodstream. We therefore worked with cardiologists to rule out a heart infection, and were eventually able to determine that he had a middle ear infection. This had persisted for almost two months without treatment,” Dr Kutty explained.

The infection was then treated with medication, and physiotherapy helped Reddy regain normal function and strength on the right side of his body.

“We were also happy to see that the patient had recovered his speech abilities fully by the time he was discharged a month and a half later. The real takeaway, though, is that no discharge or discomfort can afford to be left untreated,” Dr Kutty said.

Reddy, the sole breadwinner for his family in India, also said he was grateful for the comprehensive treatment he had received.

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