Fungal otitis externa as a cause of tympanic membrane perforation: A case series | Ear, Nose & Throat Journal Skip to content Skip to navigation

Fungal otitis externa as a cause of tympanic membrane perforation: A case series

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August 28, 2014
by James Eingun Song, MD; Thomas J. Haberkamp, MD; Riddhi Patel, MD; Miriam I. Redleaf, MD


We describe a series of 11 patients-8 men and 3 women, aged 18 to 70 years (mean: 46.0)-who had fungal otitis externa that had been complicated by a tympanic membrane perforation. These patients had been referred to us for evaluation of chronic, mostly treatment-refractory otitis externa, which had manifested as otorrhea, otalgia, and/or pruritus. Seven of the 11 patients had no history of ear problems prior to their current condition. Five patients had been referred to us by a primary care physician and 4 by an otolaryngologist; the other 2 patients were self-referred. All patients were treated with a thorough debridement of the ear and one of two antifungal medication regimens. Eight of the 11 patients experienced a complete resolution of signs and symptoms, including closure of the tympanic membrane perforation. The other 3 patients underwent either a tympanoplasty (n = 2) or a fat-graft myringotomy (n = 1) because the perforation did not close within a reasonable amount of time. This series demonstrates that the nonspecific signs and symptoms of fungal otitis externa can make diagnosis difficult for both primary care physicians and general otolaryngologists. This study also demonstrates that most cases of tympanic membrane perforation secondary to fungal otitis externa will resolve with cleaning of the ear and proper medical treatment. Therefore, most patients with this condition will not require surgery.

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