Which complications may occur with 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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Complications of OE are rare and may include the following:

  • Necrotizing OE (the most significant complication)
  • Mastoiditis
  • Chondritis of the auricle (from spread of acute OE to the pinna, particularly in patients with newly pierced ears)
  • Bony erosion of the base of the skull (skull base osteomyelitis [15] )
  • Central nervous system (CNS) infection
  • Cellulitis or lymphadenitis

Diabetic ketoacidosis is often present in diabetics with this condition.

Herpes zoster may initially present with symptoms similar to those of OE, and vesicular eruption may occur 1-2 days after the initial symptoms. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare complication of herpes zoster and presents with peripheral unilateral facial palsy. Patients should be counseled on this possible presentation and advised to seek medical care if it occurs. [16]

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