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What is Perichondritis?


Updated June 18, 2014

What is Perichondritis?

External Ear Structure

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Perichondritis is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and nourishes the cartilage which makes up the outer ear. Common causes usually involve trauma to the tissue and include:

  • ear piercing
  • surgical trauma
  • injury from sports etc.
  • burns

Since piercing the cartilage of the outer ear is a common trend, it seems to be the most common cause of perichondritis at this time. Perichondritis is usually caused by the pseudomonas aeruginosis bacteria and is manifested by the following symptoms:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • pus or other fluid discharge (in severe cases)
  • fever (in severe cases)
  • deformation of the ear structure (in severe cases)

The diagnosis of perichondritis is uncomplicated and based on the history of trauma to the ear and the appearance of the area infected. In its beginning stages, perichondritis looks similar to cellulitis.

Treatment of perichondritis involves antibiotic therapy. Depending on the severity of the infection, antibiotics are prescribed to be taken orally or given intravenously. In severe cases where there is trapped pus and fluid in the wound, surgery may be necessary. The surgeon will make a small incision and then remove pus and other debris from the wound. Antibiotics will still be required after the procedure. If the infection is serious enough that the ear has become misshapen, parts of the ear may need to be removed. In this instance, plastic surgery may eventually be needed to reconstruct the ear and return it to a normal appearance.

Sometimes perichondritis cannot be prevented, such as in the case of accidental injury. However, piercing the cartilage in your ear puts you at a greater risk of developing this infection. It should be noted that multiple piercings and the exact area of the piercing can increase the risk. Prognosis of perichondritis is good. As long as the infection is discovered and treated properly early, full recovery is expected.


Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Perichondritis. Accessed: February 24, 2009 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001253.htm

The New York Times Health Guide. Perichondritis. Accessed: February 24, 2009 from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/perichondritis/overview.html

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