Applied Evidence

A guide to managing disorders of the ear pinna and canal

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What you’ll see. BCC of the ear usually involves the preauricular area and the helix. The risk for BCC is related to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. BCC of the ear is more common in men and can be particularly aggressive, highlighting the importance of prevention and prompt recognition. BCC typically presents as a fleshy papule that is often translucent or “pearly’” and has overlying telangiectasia and a “rolled” border. Central ulceration can occur as well.

How to treat. Usual treatment of BCC is surgical excision. Prevention is critical and centers on sun avoidance or the use of appropriate sunscreens.

If the object in the external auditory canal is a button battery, avoid irrigation to prevent liquefaction tissue necrosis.

In addition to BCC, exposure of the external ear to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation predisposes patients to the development of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. SCC has a variety of presentations including papules, plaques, and nodules. SCC has a higher metastatic potential than does BCC.


Keloids are an abnormal healing response to soft-tissue injury: benign fibrocartilaginous growths that extend beyond the original wound.

What you’ll see. Keloids are more common in dark-skinned individuals and tend to result from burns, surgical incisions, infection, trauma, tattooing, injections, piercings, and arthropod bites. In some cases, they arise spontaneously. Keloids are more common in areas of increased skin tension (chest, shoulders, back), but may occur on the ears—most commonly after piercing or trauma. Keloids present clinically as slow-growing rubbery or firm nodules. The diagnosis is typically based on clinical appearance but can be confirmed by histopathology.

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