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Acute left otitis externa - swimmer's ear

Case contributed by Dr Chris O'Donnell


Painful left ear with conductive deafness and foul smelling discharge

Patient Data

Age: 16 years
Gender: Male

Normal ear (image 1 and 3) shows no soft tissue thickening in the external canal and normal tympanic membrane.  The inflamed left ear (image 2 and 4) shows circumferential soft tissue swelling in the external canal and slight thickening of the tympanic membrane (arrow).  No bone erosion.

Case Discussion

Benign otitis externa is a condition of the external canal that occurs usually in summer due to chronic dampness and warm conditions with inadequate drainage of the canal (hence the name swimmer's ear).  It is rarely imaged radiologically as diagnosis is obvious and treatment quite simple, i.e. ear toilet and topical antibiotics (drops).

The so-called malignant or necrotizing otitis externa is an aggressive skull base osteomyelitis often due to Pseudomonas in diabetics or immunosuppressed patients.

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Case information

rID: 42903
Published: 14th Feb 2016
Last edited: 9th Dec 2019
System: Head & Neck
Inclusion in quiz mode: Excluded

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