Propylene glycol-induced cholesteatoma in chinchilla middle ears

L. Vassalli, D. M. Harris, R. Gradini, E. L. Applebaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Propylene glycol is a solvent commonly used in topical otic preparations. This study examines the occurrence of inflammatory changes and cholesteatoma in chinchilla middle ears after the application of propylene glycol in varying concentrations. A total of 32 ears were studied, divided into four treatment groups. Three groups received propylene glycol in concentrations of 10%, 50%, and 90%. One group received normal saline. Six weeks after the application of propylene glycol to the middle ear through the bulla, examination revealed cholesteatoma, tympanic membrane perforations, and middle ear adhesions in most of the ears subjected to 50% and 90% propylene glycol. Only one ear treated with 10% propylene glycol showed only mild inflammation. Histologic preparations confirmed cholesteatoma and revealed replacement of the normal columnar epithelium by keratinizing stratified squamous epithelium, inflammatory infiltration, and granulation tissue eroding underlying bone. We conclude that exposure to propylene glycol in high concentrations will consistently produce cholesteatoma in chinchilla middle ears. Although the effects of propylene glycol in the human middle ear are yet to be investigated, we recommended the avoidance of otic preparations containing high concentrations of propylene glycol in patients with tympanic membrane perforations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-188
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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