Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Acute otitis media: a new treatment strategy.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: (Published 06 April 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:1033
  1. F L van Buchem,
  2. M F Peeters,
  3. M A van 't Hof


    The incidence of acute otitis media and its response to treatment only with nose drops and analgesics (but without antibiotics or myringotomy) were assessed over three months by 45 doctors in and around Tilburg. In addition, over 17 months 60 general practitioners assessed the effects of this limited treatment in children aged 2 to 12 years and referred all those in whom the condition took an unsatisfactory course (either a severe course--illness continuing beyond three to four days with high temperature or pain, or both--or persistent discharge after 14 days) to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Those referred because of appreciable illness continuing beyond three or four days were entered into a further study, comparing the effects of myringotomy alone, antibiotics alone, and myringotomy and antibiotics combined. Bacteriology was assessed in all children in whom the course of the condition was unsatisfactory. More than 90% of an estimated 4860 children seen over 17 months (estimation based on incidence of severe course in the three month study) recovered within a few days. The course of the condition was severe in only 126 (2.7%) patients; haemolytic streptococci group A were identified in 30 of these 126 patients but Haemophilus influenzae in only one. One hundred of these patients with a severe course entered the trial of treatment, which showed antimicrobial treatment either alone or in combination to be more effective than myringotomy alone. Whether combined treatment was more effective than antibiotics alone remained unconfirmed. Acute otitis media in children can be treated with nose drops and analgesics alone for the first three to four days. Patients in whom this regimen is not accompanied by satisfactory recovery can be recognised within a short time and treated by the general practitioner.