Feature Article

The external ear: a guide to common problems

Feature Article

The external ear: a guide to common problems

Paul A Fagan, Phillip Chang, John P Kelly

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Abstract

The external ear is in an exposed and vulnerable position and many things can happen to it. Here is a detailed account of disorders of the pinna and external ear canal, and what can be done about them.

Key Points

  • Haematoma auris (cauliflower ear) occurs in boxers and rugby players. It requires drainage under aseptic conditions. Recurrence is common.
  • Ear piercing along the antihelix may produce perichondritis, needing systemic antibiotics and removal of the foreign body.
  • Syringing the ear can have serious hazards. There are a number of precautions to be taken.
  • Objects in the ear may be difficult to remove, and referral may be required.
  • Herpes zoster oticus presents first with pain. The vesicles occur days later and then there is usually a facial palsy.
  • Malignant otitis externa is a severe, progressive infection that rapidly involves adjacent tissues. It occurs in elderly people with diabetes and in the immunocompromised.
  • Swimmer’s exostoses may require surgical removal. Keeping water out may help.