Brody’s Story – Long-term recurrent chronic ear infections & TECA surgery

French Bulldog recovering after surgery in a neck collar

Brody is a five-year-old French Bulldog who has had ongoing issues with his right ear. Brody had been experiencing irritation from an infection, which lead him to shaking his head persistently and rupturing a blood vessel in his ear.

This large blood-filled swelling in his earflap was drained at his local vet but it returned requiring it to be surgically lanced. Brody continued to struggle with his recurring ear infections and eventually, he was referred to our soft tissue hospital in Guildford, to investigate the issue.

French Bulldog with a chronic ear infection

French Bulldog Brody’s infected ear.

After examining his ear, it was clear that the constant infections had damaged his ear canal to a point where it was no longer responsive to medical treatment. Specialist Dr Jonathan Bray offered the option of a total ear canal ablation, commonly known as TECA surgery.

Patients who normally require this surgery suffer from long term ear infections and can have symptoms such as persistent head shaking, ear scratching, a funny smell from the ear, some patients rub their ears along the ground and in some instances can develop a head tilt and issues with balance. Jonathan discussed the advantages and possible complications associated with ablative surgery with Brody’s mum, and she decided to go ahead with the procedure.

Surgery

Dr Jonathan Bray

RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Surgery Dr Jonathan Bray, BVSc MVSc CertSAS DipECVS PhD MRCVS

Surgical Resident Dr Chris Webb

Surgical Resident (ECVS) Dr Chris Webb, (MA VetMB PgC(SAS) PgDip(VCP) MRCVS

A week later Brody was admitted to the hospital, where Jonathan and Surgical Resident Chris Webb performed the delicate operation to remove the diseased ear canal and an area of bone at the entrance to the middle ear that enables this large sound shell to be opened and evacuated of debris.

Thankfully, there was no sign of infection in the bone, so it is expected that surgery should permanently resolve the chronic pain and discomfort that Brody experienced from his long-standing infection.

The pain and disability associated with persistent ear infections is often under-estimated. After surgery, many dogs show renewed energy and playfulness. They may start playing with toys again, free of the pain at the base of their skull. Although surgery is complicated, in experienced hands, the risk of complications should be low.

There is a risk of injury to the nerve providing facial expression, but if this occurs is usually temporary and resolves within a few days of surgery.

The cosmetic impact of surgery is minimal; surgery removes the structures of the ear canal beneath the skin and the external ear flap is not disturbed. In breeds with an upright ear structure, this is usually preserved. There should also be no loss of hearing acuity; by the time dogs require this surgery they will already have lost some hearing as sound can no longer pass through the diseased ear canal and eardrum. They will still hear loud noises and sounds by bone conduction, and surgery does not affect this ability.

Recovery

Brody enjoyed a successful recovery from surgery with no complications. He remained on antibiotics for three weeks to kill the bacteria cultured from his ear canal during surgery to ensure any residual infection was resolved. With complete removal of all of the diseased and unhealthy tissue from the area, his body’s own immune system is now more effective at resolving the infection.

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