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An audit of 'dead ear' after ear surgery.

INTRODUCTION: 'Dead ear' is a rare and serious complication of ear surgery. This paper presents an audit of this complication.

METHOD: Over 6 years, data for all 617 middle-ear operations performed under the care of a single consultant were recorded for the International Otology Audit. All cases of dead ear were identified and assessed.

RESULTS: A post-operative dead ear occurred in 6 cases (approximately 1 per cent). No cases of post-operative dead ear occurred following the 83 otosclerosis operations and the 62 children's procedures. Amongst 187 adult patients undergoing mastoid surgery for cholesteatoma, there were 5 cases of post-operative dead ear (2.7 per cent of cases).

CONCLUSION: The occurrence of dead ear after cholesteatoma surgery in adults is less rare than previously thought. This has implications for the surgical consenting process. The current series suggests that, whilst dead ear is often avoidable, it is sometimes inevitable.

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