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Perichondritis; causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and complication

The Human Ear

The ear is the hearing organ and also for balancing. Hearing is very essential for quality life. So, therefore, the need to take proper care of our ears.

The human ear has three main parts:  outer or external ear, the middle ear, and the inner or internal ear.

Perichondritis; A disease of the external ear

This an infection of the skin and tissue surrounding the cartilage of the outer or external ear. Usually, chondritis (an infection of the cartilage itself) occurs as a result of perichondritis.

Anatomically, the cartilage is the tissue that create the shape of the outer ear particularly the pinna. The perichondrium, which is the thin layer of tissue around the cartilage covered by the skin, provides nutrients to the cartilage.

Causes of Perichondritis

  • Bacterial infection, especially, by pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • An injury to the pinna due to;
    • Ear surgery
    • Ear piercing especially of the cartilage
    • Contact sports
    • Trauma to the side of the head.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Swollen and painful ear, particularly the pinna
  • Redness of the pinna or auricle especially the injured area
  • Pus collection and sometimes drainage through the injured area or wound
  • Fever may be present

Mode of Diagnosis

  1. Medical history
  2. Physical examination of the ear


  • Early reporting to the hospital
  • Antibiotics orally of by intravenous
  • If there is collection of pus, surgically drain the pus
  • Removal of dead skin and cartilage is necessary
  • Early review is necessary to monitor progress of treatment
  • Educate patent on the medication and care of the ear.

Complications of Perichondritis

  1. Cartilage necrosis
  2. Cauliflower ear

Serious Advice

Piercing the cartilaginous part of the pinna mostly result in perichondritis leading to cartilage necrosis. This can deform the pinna into what is known as cauliflower ear. It is advisable to pierce the part of the auricle not having cartilage which is the lobule. Understand that the pinna plays an active role in the hearing process by receiving sound waves and channeling them through the auditory canal to the ear drum. So deformed pinna would have adverse effect on proper hearing.

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