When are oral antibiotics or IV antibiotics indicated for the treatment of 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 persons with OE do not require oral medications. Oral antibiotics are generally reserved for patients with fever, immunosuppression, diabetes, adenopathy, or an infection extending outside the ear canal. They should be given to individuals with cellulitis of the face or neck skin or to persons in whom severe edema of the ear canal limits penetration of topical agents.

IV antibiotics are used in individuals with necrotizing (malignant) OE; they may also be appropriate for patients with severe cellulitis or persons whose symptoms do not respond to topical and oral antibiotics. A prolonged course of IV antibiotics, lasting for up to 6 weeks, may be required. If the patient is stable, IV antibiotics may be administered at home. Begin treatment with antibiotics to cover pseudomonads, and alter the regimen as necessary on the basis of culture results.

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