Maxillofacial Infections

There are several types of infections that can affect the head and neck areas. Some are cancer-related and others are caused by bacterial infection:  
  • Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) is a term used for the family of germs (bacilli) that cause infections and pulmonary diseases. In general, diseases caused by NTM are not contagious, but the reason those infected get sick remains unknown. Doctors believe that patients with defects in the lungs and immune systems are more susceptible to developing an infection in the head or neck that is associated with NTM.
  • Meningitis is a viral infection that attacks the membrane and cerebrospinal fluid located in the areas around the brain and spinal cord causing inflammation. There is evidence that bacterial and fungal infections can also be linked to the onset of meningitis. Recovery from this disease will vary, but the seriousness of this condition should not be taken lightly. Meningitis can be a life-threatening illness with harsh side effects that can include hearing loss, blindness, speech and learning disabilities, and brain damage.
  • Neck lumps can occur when there is swelling in the neck region caused by any number of conditions, such as viral or bacterial infections. These lumps can be the first signs of serious diseases or illnesses. Bacterial causes of neck lumps could indicate tuberculosis, strep throat, peritonsillar abscess (requiring the removal of tonsils) or cat scratch disease (a bacterial infection affecting lymph nodes). Viral causes of neck lumps can also indicate life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS, HIV, herpes and viral pharyngitis. Some forms of cancer, such as thyroid cancer, will usually be diagnosed after finding a lump in the neck that has become swollen. A neck lump may also be an indicator of several malignant diseases, such as Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia and mouth cancer (metastatic oral lesions).
  • Neck abscess is characterized by a collection of pus resulting from an infection in the neck. As the volume of pus increases, pressure on the neck increases, causing tissues to expand and block the throat, tongue and trachea. Neck abscess is especially harmful for children, as they are susceptible to retropharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess and Ludwig’s angina. Abscess in the neck usually begins with viral or bacterial infection caused by a cold, ear infection, tonsillitis or chronic sinus problems that spread behind the neck and throat, causing inflammation.

Consultation with a physician is the next step to determine the diagnosis and best course of treatment for a head or neck infection.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in treating maxillofacial infections at the following convenient locations:

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery