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BMJ Case Rep. 2010; 2010: bcr0620103109.
Published online 2010 November 2. doi:  10.1136/bcr.06.2010.3109
PMCID: PMC3028081
Reminder of important clinical lesson

Recurrent syncope and chronic ear pain


An elderly gentleman presented to hospital with recurrent blackout episodes consistent with syncope and a 3-month history of right ear pain. Significant postural hypotension was recorded. White cell count and C reactive protein were elevated. MRI of the head and neck revealed a soft tissue abnormality in the right nasopharynx and base of skull. Tissue biopsies were obtained and microbiology specimens revealed a mixed growth of pseudomonas and diphtheroids. There was no histological evidence of malignancy.

A diagnosis of skull base infection was made. Infective involvement of the carotid sinus was considered to be the cause of the recurrent syncope and postural hypotension.

The patient responded well to a 12-week course of intravenous meropenem. Inflammatory markers returned to normal and a repeat MRI after 3 months of treatment showed significant resolution of infection. The syncopal episodes and orthostatic hypotension resolved in parallel with treatment of infection.

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