What is the role of ear irrigation in cerumen impaction removal?

Updated: May 09, 2018
  • Author: F Carl van Wyk, MB, ChB, MRCS, FRCS(Edin); Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Answer

Answer

This procedure involves the use of warm (ideally body temperature) water under pressure directed into the ear canal to mechanically remove the wax. While a seemingly simple procedure it has a significant risk of damaging the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and middle ear structures, which led to it being a common reason for litigation in general practice in the past. Pressure-controlled devices limit the risk but tympanic membranes vary in strength from patient to patient and the risk of damage remains. Ear irrigation should not be undertaken without undergoing specific training, taking a full otological history, otological examination, seeking informed consent from the patient, and with the correct pressure-limited instrumentation.


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