Treatment consists of antibiotics, either by mouth or directly into the bloodstream through an intravenous line (IV). If there is a trapped collection of pus, surgery may be necessary to drain this fluid and remove any dead skin and cartilage.
What happens depends on how quickly the infection is diagnosed and treated. If antibiotics are taken early on, full recovery is expected. In more advanced cases, when the infection involves the ear cartilage (chondritis), part of the ear may die and need to be surgically removed. If so, plastic surgery may be needed to restore the ear to its normal shape.
If not treated early enough, the infection can spread to the ear cartilage. This would require removal of the damaged part and possibly cosmetic surgery to restore it to a normal shape.
If you suffer any trauma to your ear (a scratch, blow, or piercing) and then develop pain and redness over the stiff part of the outer ear, contact your health care provider. You may need to take antibiotics.
Guss J, Ruckenstein MJ. Infections of the external ear. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 137.
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