Pott's puffy tumor: A comprehensive review of the literature


Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center


Purpose: Pott's puffy tumor (PPT) is a rare clinical entity characterized by osteomyelitis of the frontal bone with subperiosteal abscess collection. The frequency of reported cases of PPT in the literature has increased in recent years. Previous reviews of PPT exist primarily in the form of small, retrospective case series and anecdotal case reports. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide the literature's largest comprehensive, up-to-date review of the essential clinical findings, diagnostic modalities, microbiologic considerations, and treatment approaches utilized in the management of PPT, both in pediatric and adult populations.

Materials and methods: We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, and Embase databases for English-language studies published from January 1950 through January 30, 2022. The authors reviewed all cases of PPT, focusing specifically on those describing therapeutic management of PPT. A total of 321 patients were included, consisting of 318 patients (from 216 articles) and an additional 3 adult cases from our institution.

Results: PPT most often results from untreated rhinosinusitis, as well as direct head trauma, substance use, and odontogenic disease. Infections are classically polymicrobial with an anaerobe-predominant microbiome. Both CT and MRI imaging modalities are commonly obtained for presurgical assessment of sinusitis and intracranial extension. The core of treatment is an early and aggressive approach to prevent long-term complications. A significant association exists between surgical management and clinical outcomes for patients with PPT. Recent literature suggests endoscopic sinus surgery is essential for successful disease resolution.

Conclusions: PPT is an important and relatively morbid disease process that is often underrecognized and misdiagnosed at presentation due to its variable clinical presentation. Management of PPT includes both antimicrobial therapy and surgical intervention. Determination of the optimal approach depends on patient clinical features including age, history of prior endoscopic sinus surgery, and presence of intracranial involvement on presentation. An individualized, targeted, and interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of PPT is critical for successful disease resolution.

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