Doctors warn of post-COVID infections in skull, jaw and face

July 14, 2022 - 07:36
A dozen patients suffering from osteomyelitis (bone infection) in the skull, jaw and face with unknown causes have been reported at Chợ Rẫy Hospital in HCM City in the past two months.

PTH, who got COVID-19 last December, developed a headache and a swollen eye a few months later. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI – A dozen patients suffering from osteomyelitis (bone infection) in the skull, jaw and face with unknown causes have been reported at Chợ Rẫy Hospital in HCM City in the past two months.

The phenomenon occurs in patients with a history COVID-19, according to Chợ Rẫy Hospital.

PTH, 60, who contracted COVID-19 last December, started having headaches in February. Her left eye became swollen, and she underwent sinus surgery at a private hospital in Củ Chi District.

Three months later, H.'s condition worsened when her face swelled up and pus leaked into her forehead and upper jaw. She was transferred to Chợ Rẫy Hospital for treatment.

Doctors at the hospital said she had necrosis of the palatine bone and decided to perform surgery to remove the necrotic bone.

A similar case was a 63-year-old female patient living in Khánh Hòa Province who had COVID-19 in December 2021. By February 2022, the patient had developed headaches and swollen eyes.

When the patient was transferred to Chợ Rẫy Hospital, he had necrosis in the frontal skull, nasal cavity, and palatine bone. The doctors removed the entire necrotic bone and the abscess and treated him with antibiotics and antifungal drugs.

Doctor Trần Anh Bích, Deputy Head of the Faculty of Otolaryngology, Chợ Rẫy Hospital, said that in the past two months, the unit recorded 11 other similar cases, including necrosis of the skull and maxillofacial bone, as well inflammation and abnormal sinuses.

The patients were admitted to the hospital with headaches, nasal congestion, and swelling of the face and eyes; all had a history of COVID-19 (Delta strain).

Approximately 50 per cent of these patients had diabetes. Among the 11 cases, two died.

"The patients had previously had surgery, their health was stable, and they asked to be discharged, but then their condition deteriorated quickly, and we couldn't handle it in time," Bích said.

Trần Minh Trường, former Deputy Director of Chợ Rẫy Hospital, said the cases were very strange, adding that the necrosis of the skull and jaw bones, and severe sinuses, was serious and spread fast.

Although it is impossible to conclude that COVID-19 causes the inflammation of the jaw, skull, and face, doctors have found a relationship between the disease and the Delta variant.

"We think a lot about the possibility of embolism for patients with COVID-19, in which the Delta variant can cause hypercoagulability and embolism," Trường said.

He noted that from May 2021 to May 2022, there were 80 reports in India, China, the US and some other Asian countries of pneumonia cases, bone marrow and skull necrosis, and sinusitis related to COVID-19, similar to the cases at Chợ Rẫy.

Doctors recommend that patients, after being infected with COVID-19, who have symptoms within six to eight months of prolonged headache, sinusitis, swelling of the face, skull and jaw, consider a CT scan to find the cause. VNS