When not to syringe an ear

N Z Med J. 1998 Nov 13;111(1077):422-4.


This article reviews the potential hazards of ear syringing and the Accident Compensation Corporation Medical Misadventure Unit's experience of alleged iatrogenic injury over a 17-month period. Syringing claims account for about 25% of the total claims received by the ACC ENT Medical Misadventure Committee. Forty-seven claims were accepted as either mishap or error, and 63 claims were declined. Perforation of the drum was by far the commonest injury resulting in significant disability. Severe iatrogenic otitis externa accounted for most of the remainder. Practice nurses had syringed the ears of approximately two-thirds of the claimants with significant disability. The contraindications to ear syringing are listed and discussed. The correct technique, with a few "do and don't" pointers, is briefly reviewed. Management of the unintentional injury is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerumen
  • Child
  • Contraindications
  • Ear Canal / injuries*
  • Ear, Middle / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Otitis Externa / etiology*
  • Syringes* / adverse effects