treatment and prevention of otitis media

J Erramouspe, C A Heyneman
Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2000, 34 (12): 1452-68

OBJECTIVE: To review and summarize recent advances in the treatment and prevention of otitis media (OM).

DATA SOURCES: A MEDLINE search (1996-March 2000) was performed to identify relevant primary and review articles. References from these articles were also reviewed if deemed important.

STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: English-language primary and review articles focusing on the treatment and prevention of acute otitis media (AOM) were included. Studies focusing exclusively on OM with effusion or serous OM and chronic suppurative OM were excluded. Information regarding prevention and drug therapy was reviewed, with an emphasis placed on advances made in the last two years.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Recently, an expert panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended use of only three of 16 systemic antibiotics approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of AOM: amoxicillin, cefuroxime axetil, and ceftriaxone. Controversy exists over the importance of key selection factors used by the expert panel in determining which antibiotics to recommend in a two-step treatment algorithm, that is, in vitro data, pharmacodynamic profiles, and necessity for coverage of drug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae at all steps of empiric treatment. Additional antibiotic and patient selection factors useful for individualizing therapy include clinical efficacy, adverse effects, frequency and duration of administration, taste, cost, comorbid infections, and ramifications should bacterial resistance develop to the chosen antibiotic. Presumed or past patient/caregiver adherence (especially when antibiotic failure has occurred) is also paramount in selecting antibiotic therapy. A three-step treatment algorithm for refractory AOM that employs amoxicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), or high-dose amoxicillin/clavulanate (depending on the prior dose of and adherence to amoxicillin therapy), and ceftriaxone or tympanocentesis at steps 1, 2, and 3, respectively, appears rational and cost-effective. The recent upsurge in antimicrobial resistance is highlighted, and recommendations are presented for the treatment of AOM and prevention of recurrent otitis media (rAOM).

CONCLUSIONS: Amoxicillin remains the antibiotic of choice for initial empiric treatment of AOM, although the traditional dosage should be increased in patients at risk for drug-resistant S. pneumoniae. In cases refractory to high-dose amoxicillin, TMP/SMX should be prescribed if adherence to prior therapy seemed good or complete, or high-dose amoxicillin/clavulanate if adherence was incomplete or questionable. Ceftriaxone should be reserved as third-line treatment. The increasing prevalence of drug-resistant S. pneumoniae emphasizes the importance of alternative medical approaches for the prevention of OM, as well as judicious antibiotic use in established cases. Removal of modifiable risk factors should be first-line therapy for prevention of rAOM. We support the use of conjugate pneumococcal vaccine per guidelines for prevention of rAOM from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with consideration given to influenza vaccine for cases of rAOM that historically worsen during the flu season. Sulfisoxazole prophylaxis should be reserved for children who are immunocompromised, have concurrent disease states exacerbated by AOM, or meet the criteria of rAOM despite conjugate pneumococcal and influenza vaccination. Therapy should be intermittent, beginning at the first sign of an upper respiratory infection, and should continue for 10 days. The invasive nature and risks of anesthesia relegate myringotomy, tympanostomy tubes, and adenoidectomy to last-line therapies for rAOM.

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