External Ear Chondritis/abscess

External Ear Chondritis/abscess is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Inflammation and/or infection of the pinna


  • Mechanism:
    • Cartilage of the external ear is easily damaged due to:
      • Lack of overlying subcutaneous tissue
      • Relative avascularity
      • Exposed position
    • Chondritis:
      • Most commonly a secondary complication of otic trauma and burns
      • Onset is often insidious and may be delayed until apparent healing has occurred.
  • Improper management may cause disfiguration of the pinna secondary to cartilage avascular necrosis:
    • Ranges from being a shriveled, cauliflower-like ear to complete loss of the external ear and possible stenosis of the auditory meatus.
  • Causes:
    • Common causes of chondritis include:
      • Chemical or thermal burns
      • Frostbite
      • Hematoma formation
      • Trauma
      • Human/insect bites
      • Deep abrasions
      • External otitis
      • High piercing of the ear lobe especially with poor technique, hygiene, and aftercare.
    • Bacteria involved:
      • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
      • Staphylococcus
      • Proteus

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