What is the prognosis for otitis externa (OE)?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
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Most incidents of OE resolve without difficulty. The majority of patients improve within 48-72 hours of antibiotic administration. Failure to improve within 2-3 days should call the diagnosis into question and prompt the physician to reevaluate the patient. OE usually resolves fully in 7-10 days. Resolution of eczematoid OE occurs with control of the primary skin condition. In some patients with OE, the ear must be debrided for full resolution. Surgical incision and drainage are sometimes necessary.

In some patients, OE can cause severe otalgia necessitating administration of narcotic pain relievers. Pain usually improves 2-5 days after initiating therapy. Temporary hearing loss is common secondary to canal occlusion. Severe infections may cause lymphadenitis or cellulitis of the face or neck.

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