What is Exostectomy?

Exostectomy is an operation performed to remove exostosis, or swimmers humps, from the ear canal.

What is Exostosis?

The outer half of the outer ear canal is made of cartilage and the inner half is made of bone. Over time, due to a thermal stimulus of cold, the bony part of the ear canal humps up and blocks in the inner half of the ear canal. This causes three problems;

  • Firstly, any water that gets in the ear canal tends to be trapped between the eardrum and the bony hump.
  • Secondly, there is an increased incidence of outer ear infection.
  • Thirdly, there is progressive blockage of the ear canal and reduction of hearing.


Once the exostosis are blocking more than two thirds of the diameter of the ear canal, consideration should be given to appropriate surgical management or exostectomy. This is an operation that is done under a general anaesthetic in a fully equipped operating theatre.

3 Approaches of Exostectomy

The operation is performed using an operating microscope with appropriate access to the humps being made by one of three approaches;

  1. Transcanal: operating down the ear canal without any cuts or incisions.
  2. Endaural: operating down the ear canal after making appropriate incisions has enlarged the cartilaginous portion of the eardrum.
  3. Post auricular: coming in behind the outer ear, lifting the outer ear off the ear canal to gain direct access to the bony portion of the ear canal and the offending humps. The humps are meticulously removed using a high-speed drill or equivalent resulting in a reboring of the inner half to the ear canal. Particular care has to be taken to avoid damaging the eardrum.

After Exostectomy

After an exostectomy (operation to remove bony humps) it is important to avoid cold as further thermal stimulation can result in reformation of the humps.

If you doubt that you have exostosis, please do not hesitate to contact us. Professor Thomas Havas and his team are willing to help.