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Key Points

  • image One of the most common benign head and neck disorders includes sinonasal inflammatory disease which can present as acute or chronic rhinosinusitis.

  • image Acute adeno-tonsillitis is a major cause of morbidity in children and adenotonsillectomy can significantly improve symptoms of both sleep disordered breathing and of symptoms during acute infections.

  • image Squamous cell carcinoma comprises >90% of all of the malignant pathology of the mucosal lining of the upper aerodigestive tract.

  • image The ideal treatment protocol for these cancers varies by subsite, stage, patient comorbidity, and center preference/experience. Early stage disease is treated with unimodality and late stage disease is treated with multiple modalities in the form of primary surgery with adjuvant radiotherapy or primary concurrent chemoradiotherapy.

  • image Free flap reconstruction of head and neck defects is integral to help improve patient-reported quality of life and to re-establish form and function.


The anatomy of the head and neck is complex because of the proximity of vital structures such as framework, nerves, and arteries. Functionally, these structures afford most of the human senses: vision, taste, smell, and hearing. Even more fundamental, the upper aerodigestive tract is critical for breathing, speech, and swallowing. Otolaryngology—head and neck surgery is the field that predominantly deals with disorders of the head and neck; however, a multidisciplinary approach is required to achieve optimal outcomes. The multidisciplinary team can include audiology, speech language pathology, allergy/immunology, neurology, neurosurgery, radiation, and medical oncology. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the most common diseases presenting to and treated by the otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon. It reviews benign conditions, trauma, malignancies, reconstruction, tracheotomy, and rehabilitation.




Infectious processes of the ear may be considered by their location (external, middle, or inner ear), their time course (acute or chronic), and the presence of complications. The external ear or pinna consists of a cartilaginous framework, perichondrium, and a relatively thin layer of skin. Erysipelas (St Anthony’s Fire) or impetigo are causes of external ear infection affecting the dermis or hypodermis of the auricle, typically caused by Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus, respectively, that may be encountered posttraumatically or related to ear piercing. Treatment is oral antibiotic therapy targeting these organisms. History and clinical features such as presence of bullae and golden crusting distinguish erysipelas and impetigo from other benign entities causing erythema and edema of the auricle, such as relapsing polychondritis, which is typically diffuse, lobule-sparing, and steroid-responsive.

Acute otitis externa, often referred to as “swimmer’s ear,” denotes infection of the skin of the external auditory canal.1 Typically, the pathology is incited by moisture within the canal leading to skin maceration and pruritus. Subsequent trauma to the canal skin by scratching (i.e., instrumentation with a cotton swab or fingernail), ...

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