The Excised Preauricular Sinus in 14 Years of Experience: Is There a Problem?

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The congenital preauricular sinus is usually asymptomatic. However, if recurrent infection occurs, complete surgical excision of the sinus is required. If the sinus tracts are not entirely removed, recurrence is likely to follow. A retrospective study of the surgical results at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, was completed.

One-hundred sixty-five primary preauricular excision procedures, performed in 146 patients between the years 1982 and 1996, were reviewed. All clinical, operative, and postoperative data were gathered. Patient outcome and epidemiologic issues were addressed.

The overall recurrence rate of this series was 9.09 percent (15 of 165 sinuses). For the group of patients with active infection present at surgery, the recurrence rate was 15.79 percent, and when no infection was present, recurrence rate was 8.22 percent (p value = 0.32, odds ratio = 2.09). Moreover, in patients who underwent surgical drainage of an abscess before the procedure, 16.7 percent of the sinuses recurred, whereas in the patients who did not have an abscess, only 8.16 percent recurred (p value = 0.25, odds ratio = 2.25). In the group of patients in whom auricular cartilage was not excised from the base of the tract, 18.52 percent of the sinuses recurred; when cartilage was excised, the recurrence rate was 4.5 percent (p value = 0.006). A very high recurrence rate of 21.95 percent was found in the group of patients in whom no modality was used to demonstrate the sinus tract at surgery. A high recurrence rate of 10.87 percent was found in the group for whom probing with a cannula was used to identify the tract (p value = 0.17); a low recurrence rate of 2 percent was found in a group with dye injection only (p value = 0.015). In those patients in whom sinus probing and dye injection were used simultaneously, there were no recurrences (0 percent, p value < 0.05).

In conclusion, a patient with an actively infected preauricular sinus or one with a previous abscess may have a tendency to experience a higher recurrence rate after excisional surgery. Excising a cartilage piece at the base of the tract and demonstrating the sinus with dye injection or with dye injection and probing at the time of surgery will reduce recurrence rates. In conclusion, we advise the excision of cartilage in the base of the tract as well as the use of methylene blue injection and probing of the sinus at surgery. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 102: 1405, 1998.)

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