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The mastoid is a part of the side (temporal bone) of the skull. It can be felt as a bony bump just behind and slightly above the level of the earlobe. The mastoid has been described as resembling a "honeycomb" of tiny partitioned-off airspaces. The mastoid is connected with the middle ear, so that when there is a collection of fluid in the middle ear, there is usually also a slight collection of fluid within the airspaces of the mastoid.

Mastoiditis can range from a simple case of some fluid escaping into the mastoid air cells during a middle ear infection, to a more complex infection which penetrates through to the lining of the mastoid bone, to a very severe and destructive infection of the mastoid bone itself.

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