The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence, mortality and morbidity of complications due to chronic otitis media (COM). During the nine-year period 1990–1999, 2890 cases of COM were reviewed, 93 (3.22 per cent) having 57 (1.97 per cent) intracranial complications (IC) and 39 (1.35 per cent) extracranial complications (EC). In three patients more than one complication was observed. Meningitis and brain abscess were common in the IC group. Subperiosteal abscess (mastoid and Bezold’s abscess) was a common complication in the EC group. Cholesteatoma and granulation/polyp in the middle ear/mastoid were the major findings in both groups. Fifteen patients died from IC. Overall, the mortality rate was 16.1 per cent in all patients having complications, and in patients with IC it was 26.3 per cent. In all of the patients with complications, the morbidity rate was 11.8 per cent. Our study supports the finding that meningitis and brain abscess are the common complications of COM and the main reason for mortality.