Self-inflicted negative pressure of the external ear canal: a common cause of isolated malleus fractures.

Acta oto-laryngologica

PubMedID: 19707905

Niklasson A, Tano K. Self-inflicted negative pressure of the external ear canal: a common cause of isolated malleus fractures. Acta Otolaryngol. 2010;130(3):410-6.
We report the investigation of the cause of isolated malleus fractures based on four recent patients at our clinic and five patients reported to us by Swedish otosurgeons. In recent years we have treated four patients with isolated malleus fractures. Colleagues in the Swedish Society of Otosurgeons were encouraged to send us reports on patients with diagnosed isolated malleus fractures, resulting in five more cases. A literature review focusing on the cause and management of this injury was also conducted. Eight of nine patients in the Swedish material had the same history. The patients had inserted a finger into the external auditory canal (most often after a bath) and then pulled it out. Immediately afterwards they experienced a short pain and a hearing loss. An audiogram revealed a conductive hearing loss. After exploration of the middle ear, the most common operation performed was ossiculoplasty. In the present material the most common cause of isolated malleus fractures was a sudden negative pressure in the external auditory canal created by a quick outward movement of a finger in the external ear canal. Since this fracture appears to be infrequent, it can easily be missed at otomicroscopic examination. Tympanometry and pneumatic otomicroscopy are helpful diagnostic tools.