Otologic Trauma

Otologic Trauma is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Emergency Central

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  • Ear cartilage has no blood supply and isnutritionally dependent on perichondrium
  • Hematomas often disrupt perichondrium and cartilage
    • Can lead to:
      • Ischemia
      • Perichondritis
      • Necrosis
      • Cauliflower ear
  • Penetrating injuries or bite wounds may lead to infection of cartilage

Middle Ear
  • Air-space cavity containing ossicles; susceptible to injuries disrupting pressure (blast, diving)
  • Bordered by medial cranial fossa (including temporal and mastoid bones)
  • Traumatic fractures can lead to CSF leak (otorrhea/rhinorhea)
    • May disrupt enclosed vestibular system
  • Facial nerve passes through cavity—injury to cavity may cause peripheral nerve paralysis


  • Blunt trauma:
    • Contact sports such as wrestling
    • Motorcycle helmets
  • Penetrating trauma such as tympanic membrane (TM) perforation from cotton swabs
  • Human or animal bites
  • Blast injury
  • Lightning injury:
    • TM and ossicular disruptions occur in 50% of lightning strikes
  • Chemical exposure
  • Thermal injury
  • Diving injuries:
    • Inner ear barotrauma
    • TM rupture

Pediatric Considerations
Consider nonaccidental trauma

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