Medical Q&As

Pre-auricular sinus - what is it?

My daughter has congenital pre-auricular sinuses (also called peri-auricular sinus). She has had a recent infection leading to abscess formation on the side of her face. Can you tell me more about this? What is the treatment for this condition? Which specialist surgical team is most appropriate; maxillofacial, ENT, plastic surgeons? Is it related to other medical conditions?

A pre-auricular sinus means a blind track or sinus that is located in front of the ear. It is a congenital abnormality whose origins can be traced back to an imperfect fusion of some of the elements that contribute to the formation of the pinna of the ear. The condition can be completely symptomless but symptoms often develop if infection enters the sinus, which can lead to abscess formation. This can predispose to recurrent infections, which can in turn predispose to ulcer formation in front of the ear. Pre-auricular sinuses can be present in front of one or both ears and can be associated with other abnormalities of the ears. An ENT specialist with a special interest in head and neck surgery would usually be involved in the assessment of the child. An essential element in that assessment would be to establish if the child’s hearing were normal. If a child has not had any symptoms from a pre-auricular sinus and has no additional abnormalities the preferred option is to avoid surgery unless the abnormality is very disfiguring.