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Recognizing bisphosphonate-induced ear osteonecrosis in primary care: a case report.

Family Practice 2024 Februrary 28
INTRODUCTION: Medication-related ear canal osteonecrosis (MRECO) is a growing concern linked to prolonged anti-resorptive medication use. Despite primary care providers being key prescribers of these medications, there is limited information about MRECO in primary care literature. This article presents a case of bisphosphonate-induced osteonecrosis of the external auditory canal (EAC), emphasizing the vital role of primary care providers in identifying this rare yet significant side effect of anti-resorptive medication.

MAIN SYMPTOMS AND CLINICAL FINDINGS: A 65-year-old female, on long-term alendronic acid for osteoporosis, presented to primary care with a 2-year history of left-sided ear blockage and itchiness. Despite prolonged topical treatment for ear wax, symptoms persisted, leading to an Otolaryngology referral. Microsuction revealed exposed bone in the left EAC.

DIAGNOSES, INTERVENTIONS, AND OUTCOMES: A computed tomography scan confirmed bony erosion of the left EAC, and in the absence of other osteonecrosis risk factors, bisphosphonate-induced osteonecrosis was diagnosed. Management involved bisphosphonate discontinuation, regular aural toilet, and topical treatment, achieving complete ear canal epithelialisation within 6 months.

CONCLUSION: MRECO, a rare complication of anti-resorptive therapy, is anticipated to rise with increasing antiresorptive medication use in the ageing population. Unexplained ear symptoms in those with a history of current or prior anti-resorptive therapy should raise clinical concern, prompting evaluation for exposed bone in the EAC. Raising awareness of MRECO among primary care providers is crucial for early diagnosis and timely management.

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