Objective: To conduct a study of patients presenting with perichondritis of the auricle and to analyse the possible aetiological factors responsible, the bacteriological agents involved, the treatment modalities and the complications of such infections. Setting: Academic department of otolaryngology. Design: A retrospective clinical study of patients treated over a five-year period. Participants: Sixty-one patients with clinically proven perichondritis of the auricle, with or without diabetes mellitus (i.e. malignant otitis externa). Results: Based on the severity of the disease, otherwise uncomplicated patients were assigned to group A and divided into three cohorts. Patients with perichondritis secondary to malignant otitis externa were analysed separately as group B. Men formed the majority of the patients and most were young (16-35 years). Trauma was the main cause (46 per cent) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa the most common micro-organism isolated. The condition was managed conservatively with antibiotics alone in 19 patients (31 per cent) and these cases had no residual deformity at follow up (group A, stage one). Incision and drainage was performed in a further 19 patients (31 per cent), resulting in minor residual deformity in one half (group A, stage two). Debridement was performed in 17 patients, and these patients had either gross (29 per cent) or minor residual deformity (71 per cent; group A, stage three). Six patients with perichondritis secondary to malignant otitis externa were managed by wound debridement via a post-auricular approach; all had minor residual deformities. Conclusions: Perichondritis can be divided into two groups, depending on cartilage loss and on the presence or absence of malignant otitis externa. The treatment used and the residual deformity that will ensue are entirely dependent on the stage of disease.
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