Otitis externa natural history, complications, and prognosis
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The prognosis of otitis externa varies based on the associated complications. Without treatment, the prognosis of acute otitis externa is usually good and it is self-limited. Otitis externa will usually resolve without treatment within 4 days of onset. Patients usually develop symptoms up to 7 days after infection. Initial symptoms include an odorless discharge from otorrhea, mild otalgia, and pruritus with signs of mild erythema of the ear canal. Chronic otitis externa may persist indefinitely and will require treatment for resolution. Recurrent otitis externa commonly results from otomycosis or dermatoses and require treatment. Malignant necrotizing otitis externa may develop when an infectious case of acute otitis externa extends to the temporal bones and to bones in the ear adjacent to the ear canal. Without treatment, the prognosis of maligant otitis externa is poor due to subsequent intracranial complications. Malignant otitis externa that results in cranial nerve palsies, osteitis of the skull base, and osteomyelitis of the temporal bone have particularly poor prognoses if left untreated. With treatment, acute and chronic otitis externa have good prognoses. The prognosis of malignant necrotizing otitis externa with treatment will vary depending on the severity of associated complications.
- Acute otitis externa usually develops up to 7 days after infection from the causative pathogen.
- Without treatment, acute otitis externa will usually resolve within 4 days of onset.
- Patients that are immunocompromised may experience a longer duration and escalation of symptoms.
- Chronic otitis externa lasting greater than 3 months with or without treatment, will usually persist indefinitely.
- This is usually the case when it is caused by a form of dermatitis as a chronic reaction to recurrent exposure to cosmetological chemical irritants.
- Malignant necrotizing otitis externa usually develops when an infectiously-caused case of acute otitis externa spreads to the temporal bones and bones in the ear adjacent to the canal leading to damage and degradation.
- Without treatment, malignant otitis externa will usually result in severe intra and extra cranial manifestations.
Complications of otitis externa may include:
- Abscesses in the ear canal
- Cellulitis from bacterial or fungal epithelial penetration in the damaged ear canal
- Perforated ear drum may manifest with the following complications:
- Surfer's ear from cold water exposure and irritation
- In severe cases of acute otitis externa complicationsparotitis, adenopathy, and auricular cellulitis
- Osteomyelitis of the temporal bone
- Malignant otitis externa
- Sigmoid sinus thrombosis may occur as a complication of malignant otitis externa due to intracranial spread of bacterial infection
- Cerebral abscess
- The prognosis of acute and chronic otitis externa is usually good, without treatment, due to its self-limited nature.
- Chronic otitis externa will require treatment to relieve symptoms.
- Without treatment, the prognosis of maligant otitis externa is usually poor due to resultant intracranial complications.
- Malignant otitis externa that results in cranial nerve palsies, osteitis of the skull base, and osteomyelitis of the temporal bone have particularly poor prognoses if left untreated.
- The prognosis of malignant necrotizing otitis externa with treatment will vary depending on the severity of resultant complications.
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- Chen, Jia-Cheng; Yeh, Chien-Fu; Shiao, An-Suey; Tu, Tzong-Yang (2014). "Temporal Bone Osteomyelitis: The Relationship with Malignant Otitis Externa, the Diagnostic Dilemma, and Changing Trends". The Scientific World Journal. 2014: 1–10. doi:10.1155/2014/591714. ISSN 2356-6140.
- "Necrotising otitis externa | Radiology Reference Article | Radiopaedia.org".