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Malignant otitis externa is a potentially fatal infection of the skull base. With an ageing population and increasing prevalence of diabetes, the incidence of malignant otitis externa in the British population is rising. To date, there remain no accepted diagnostic criteria, few prognostic indicators and no consensus treatment pathways.
A prospective case series was conducted at a tertiary referral teaching hospital.
A cohort of susceptible individuals predominates (elderly, male, with immunosuppression and diabetes), with 25 per cent reporting a preceding incident. Otorrhoea, otalgia and canal granulation were the commonest presenting features, alongside positive pseudomonas cultures. No clear markers for predicating disease severity were isolated; however, a high initial haemoglobin A1c level demonstrated a significant moderately positive correlation with length of treatment.
A treatment pathway designed to provide a standardised approach to investigation and treatment is proposed, which aims to increase earlier diagnosis, streamline care and facilitate the development of best practice.