Dr Isobel Yeap1, Dr Aruna Wijewardana1, Dr John Vandervord1
1Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, Australia
The burned ear represents a unique challenge for several reasons. One of the reasons is that the ear has little soft tissue coverage, such that deeper burns result in damage to cartilage. Related to this, exposed cartilage is vulnerable to infection, which can lead to further damage to the ear structure. A deformed ear, while not life threatening, can lead to problems with hearing, as well as long-term psychological problems. Before the topical application of antibiotics became commonplace practice, chondritis in the burned ear was a common and well-recognised complication. Since the 1960s, however, incidence rates have been decreasing and, as per some estimates, are now approaching zero.
In this study, a narrative review on chondritis in the burned ear was conducted. First, we describe the organisms most commonly implicated. Second, we discuss the clinical manifestations and approach to the diagnosis of chondritis. Finally, we take a historical approach and look at the range of management strategies for chondritis that have been described in the literature. We find that the declining incidence of chondritis is attributable to a paradigm shift whereby the emphasis is placed on early coverage of cartilage, routine use of topical antibiotics and immaculate pressure care.
Isobel is a resident medical officer who has worked with the Severe Burns Unit and Plastic Surgery Department at Royal North Shore Hospital. Prior to studying medicine, she completed her Bachelor (Honours) in Economics.