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Malignant otitis externa

  • Alternative Names

    Osteomyelitis of the skull; Otitis externa - malignant


    The goal of treatment is to cure the infection. Treatment often lasts for several months, because it is difficult to treat the bacteria and reach an infection in bone tissue.

    Antibiotics that are effective against the microorganism are given for long periods of time. They may be given through a vein (intravenously), or by mouth. Antibiotics should be continued until scans or other tests show that inflammation has gone down.

    Occasionally, surgery to remove dead or damaged tissue (surgical debridement) in the skull is needed.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Malignant otitis externa usually responds to long-term treatment, but it may return in the future. Severe cases may be deadly.

    • Damage to the cranial nerves, skull, or brain
    • Return of infection, even after treatment
    • Spread of infection to the brain or other parts of the body

    Calling your health care provider

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

    • You develop symptoms of malignant otitis externa
    • Symptoms continue despite treatment
    • You develop new symptoms

    Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:

    • Convulsions
    • Decreased consciousness
    • Severe confusion
    • Facial weakness, loss of voice, or difficulty swallowing associated with ear pain or drainage