Issue N# 5 - 2009
Drop weld thermal injuries to the middle ear
Authors : Keogh IJ, Portmann D. (Galway)
Ref. : Rev Laryngol Otol Rhinol. 2009;130,5:317-319.
Article published in english
Downloadable PDF document english
Drop weld injuries to the tympanic membrane and middle ear caused by hot sparks or molten slag are a rare but significant injury. Steel workers and welders who are regularly exposed to flying sparks and molten metal slag are predisposed. This type of transtympanic thermal injury occurs when the slag literally drops into the external auditory canal and burns through the tympanic membrane. A spectrum of severity of injury occurs which includes chronic tympanic membrane perforation, chronic otorrhoea, facial nerve injury and deafness. Chronic tympanic membrane perforation is the most common sequelae and is perhaps one of the most challenging of all perforations to repair. The combination of direct thermal injury and foreign body reaction results in continuing or recurrent suppuration. The foreign body reaction is due to the embedding of metal slag in the promontorial mucosa. We present a case of drop weld injury to the left tympanic membrane, resulting in chronic middle ear inflammation, otorrhoea and tympanic perforation. CAT scan clearly demonstrated a metallic promontorial foreign body with localised bone erosion. We emphasise the importance of removing these foreign bodies and recommend a cartilage reinforced underlay tympanoplasty technique to repair these perforations. Transtympanic thermal trauma is a preventable occupational injury, which is best, avoided by earplugs and increased awareness.
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