The ear is comprised of inner, middle, and external portions. The inner ear is responsible for balance and the transfer of sound waves to the brain. The middle ear contains the tympanic bulla and ear drum. The external portions contain the ear canal and the pinna (ear flap). Total ear canal ablation (TECA) is the surgical removal of the entire ear canal. A second procedure, called a bulla osteotomy, is performed during the same surgery. This osteotomy involves opening and clearing the bulla of all infected materials. Simultaneous TECA and bulla osteotomy greatly decrease the risk and incidence of infection.
Indication for TECA Surgery
Pets with chronic, severe ear infections often develop severe ear pain, which may lead to lethargy, inappetance, and frequent scratching at the ear. The infection may also progress to cause neurologic signs. When appropriate medical therapy is no longer effective in controlling ear canal infections, surgical removal of the entire ear canal is indicated. This surgery can greatly improve the quality of life for many dogs and cats. Total ear canal ablation is also the treatment of choice in most cases of cancer within the external ear canal.
Most pets recover quickly following surgery. Strict rest is advised for 2 weeks to insure incision healing, but most patients seem eager to return to full activity before this period of rest is complete.
Potential Risks or Complications
Hearing will be decreased following surgery. Many owners, however, do not notice a significant change since these patients typically have already diminished hearing due to chronic inflammation and thickening of the ear canal. Damage to the facial nerve may occur during surgery, which leads to a loss of the blink reflex, typically for a temporary period. Until this reflex returns, eye lubrication is required to moisten and protect the eye. Permanent facial nerve damage is possible, but rare. Infection and/or abscess formation may occur up to 2 years after surgery; the risk of this occurring is quite low (about 5% of cases).