What is a cholesteatoma?
A cholesteatoma is where a sac of dead skin cells forms in a pocket in your middle ear. The cholesteatoma will slowly get larger and eventually fill your middle ear and mastoid bone. The cholesteatoma can cause an unpleasant-smelling discharge and loss of hearing.
What are the benefits of surgery?
The aim is to remove the cholesteatoma and stop the discharge. It may be possible to improve your hearing at the same time
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Unfortunately, surgery is the only way to remove the cholesteatoma. In addition, regular cleaning and antibiotics will help to keep any unpleasant-smelling discharge or infection under control.
What does the procedure involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes 2 to 3 hours. Your surgeon will make a cut in front of or behind your ear, then they will remove the bone from around the cholesteatoma to see where it has spread to, and then remove it.
In some cases, your surgeon may need to remove the bone of your ear canal so they can remove all the cholesteatoma. If this happens, they will shape the bone behind your ear (mastoid bone) into a cavity that opens into your ear.
What complications can happen?
Like all procedures, there can be some complications, which can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
It is good to bear in mind the possible complications involved with this type of operation:
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
Before you book an appointment for this type of procedure, your surgeon should inform you about the specific complications for you to bear aware of.
- Hearing loss
- Numbness of your ear
- Damage to the facial nerve
- Change of taste
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ear)
- Ear discharge
- Allergic reaction to the pack material
How soon will I recover?
This is a relatively quick procedure; therefore, you should be able to go home the next day. You should be able to return to work after about 3 weeks. If your surgeon needed to shape your mastoid bone into a cavity, you will probably need to come back to the clinic several times in the first few months until the cavity has healed completely.
Protect your ear from water using cotton wool and Vaseline, and do not swim until your surgeon has told you that your ear has healed. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice. Most people make a good recovery. However, if the bone of your ear canal was not removed, some cholesteatoma may be left behind.
A cholesteatoma can damage your ear and cause serious complications. This means that having surgery is the only way you can be cured. To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337.
Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)
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