Ear canal cholesteatoma: meta-analysis of clinical characteristics with update on classification, staging and treatment

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Purpose of review

We present an update on clinical evaluation, staging, classification and treatment of canal cholesteatoma, including a meta-analysis of clinical data of the last 30 years.

Recent findings

Ear canal cholesteatoma is frequently associated secondarily to other canal pathologies. The cause for the rare idiopathic form of the disease remains enigmatic. Epidemiologic and experimental studies of its pathogenesis have increased; however, the main explanatory theory of a deficient migratory capacity of the canal epithelium affected has been falsified only recently. Therefore, the debate on the pathogenesis has gained additional impetus and more data is needed.


Canal cholesteatoma is a rarity in otologic pathology, often leading to misdiagnosis as external otitis or otomycosis by physicians unfamiliar with the disease. It presents typically with otorrhea, focal erosion and keratin accumulation in the osseous ear canal and has to be distinguished from keratosis obturans, which leads to otalgia and bilateral conductive hearing loss by ceruminal plugs, with circumferential distention of the ear canal. Treatment by canaloplasty is curative and highly successful. Alternative conservative treatment is feasible, however, requiring long-term follow up, with often painful cleaning of the lesion.

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