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Management of foreign bodies in the ear: A retrospective review of 123 cases in Nigeria

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November 22, 2011
by Toye G. Olajide, MBBS, FWACS, Foluwasayo E. Ologe, MBBS, FWACS, and Oluwabukola O. Arigbede, MBBS


Foreign bodies in the ear are relatively common in emergency medicine. However, attempts at removal made outside the healthcare setting by untrained persons can result in complications of varying degrees. We conducted a 3-year retrospective review of 123 cases of aural foreign bodies at our hospital in Nigeria. Our patient population was made up of 80 males and 43 females, aged 2 to 67 years (mean: 13.2); almost three-fourths of these patients were aged 15 years or younger. Only 40 of them (32.5%) presented to an otolaryngologist within 12 hours of foreign-body insertion. A total of 30 patients (24.4%) had initially undergone removal attempts by a non-otolaryngologist prior to receiving trained ENT care, and 23 of them experienced a total of 41 complications: 17 cases of canal abrasion, laceration, and/or bleeding, 8 cases of otitis externa, 6 cases of tympanic membrane perforation, 5 cases of impaired hearing, 3 cases of chronic suppurative otitis media, and 2 cases of middle ear involvement. Of the 93 patients who were seen by an otolaryngologist initially, only 6 (6.5%) developed a complication: 4 cases of canal abrasion, laceration, and/or bleeding and 2 cases of otitis externa. The difference in overall complication rates between patients treated by otolaryngologists and non-otolaryngologists was statistically significant (p < 0.001). We conclude that attempts at removal by non-otolaryngologists can result in a high incidence of preventable complications.

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