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Preauricular Abscess

Preauricular Abscess is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Acute abscess of a preexisting preauricular sinus
  • Preauricular sinus
    • First described by Van Heusinger in 1864
    • One of the most common congenital abnormalities of the head and neck region
    • Sporadic and inherited occurrence
  • Synonyms: infected preauricular sinus, infected ear pit, infected preauricular pit


  • Males and females equally affected
  • Preauricular sinus forms during antenatal period and present at birth, but can become apparent at an older age.

  • No defined incidence of preauricular abscess
  • Preauricular sinus incidence in the United States is 0.1–0.9%, 0.9% in England, 1.6–2.5% in Taiwan, and 4–10% in some areas of Africa.

No defined prevalence of preauricular abscess

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Etiology
    • Most commonly: Staphylococcus spp.
    • Less commonly: Streptococcus spp.
  • Pathophysiology
    • Three theories for preauricular sinus formation: defective fusion of the six auricular hillocks resulting in preauricular sinus; remnants of incomplete closure of the dorsal part of the first pharyngeal groove; and isolated ectodermal folding during auricular development
    • Abscesses are caused by obstruction of these preauricular sinus openings leading to fluid collection within sinus.

  • Autosomal dominant pattern with incomplete penetrance and variable expression
  • Rarely associated with branchiootorenal (BOR) syndrome (autosomal dominant disorder)

Risk Factors

  • Poor hygiene
  • Preexisting preauricular sinus
  • Epidermal cysts
  • Pseudocysts of the auricle
  • Calculi

Commonly Associated Conditions

Preauricular sinus is rarely associated with hemifacial microsomia and microtia.

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Preauricular Abscess." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816284/all/Preauricular_Abscess.
Preauricular Abscess. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816284/all/Preauricular_Abscess. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Preauricular Abscess. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816284/all/Preauricular_Abscess
Preauricular Abscess [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816284/all/Preauricular_Abscess.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Preauricular Abscess ID - 816284 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816284/all/Preauricular_Abscess PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -