Necrotizing otitis externa: a systematic review

Otol Neurotol. 2013 Jun;34(4):620-9. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e3182804aee.


Objective: To carry out a systematic review of scientific evidence available about necrotizing otitis externa, emphasizing epidemiologic data, diagnosis criteria, treatment protocols, follow-up criteria, prognosis factors, and chronologic evolution.

Data sources: PubMed/MEDLINE and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched for publications in English and French languages, between 1968 and October 1, 2011.

Study selection: We included publications of all types including at least 6 cases. We excluded publications focused on cranial base osteomyelitis not originating from the external ear and publications limited to a specific population.

Data extraction: We assessed publication quality according to international guidelines.

Data synthesis: For each publication, data were entered in a spreadsheet software for analysis. We excluded individual data already published in other studies or reviews.

Conclusion: Our review revealed the absence of strong scientific evidence regarding diagnosis criteria, treatment protocols and follow-up criteria. This implies the use of highly empirical indexes of suspicion in clinical practice. Our review confirmed the existence of a typical but not exclusive population at risk (aged, male, and diabetic patient) and also revealed major issues: lack of primary prevention in population at risk, delays before referral and management, bacteriologic issues caused by antibiotic misuse (agent identification problems, rise of resistant strains), persistence of recurrent cases. A better diffusion of medical information should help improve the management of this severe disease.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Necrosis / drug therapy
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Otitis Externa / drug therapy
  • Otitis Externa / pathology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents