Oral or topical nasal steroids for hearing loss associated with otitis media with effusion in children

C L Thomas, S Simpson, C C Butler, J H van der Voort
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006 July 19, (3): CD001935

BACKGROUND: Otitis media with effusion (OME) is common and may cause hearing loss with associated developmental delay. Treatment remains controversial.

OBJECTIVES: To examine evidence for or against treating children with hearing loss associated with OME with systemic or topical intranasal steroids.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library Issue 4 2005, MEDLINE (1966 to 2006), EMBASE (1974 to 2006), and the CINAHL, LILACS, Zetoc, IndMED, SAMED, KoreaMed, MEDCARIB and Cambridge Scientific Abstracts databases in January 2006.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials of oral and topical intranasal steroids, either alone or in combination with another agent such as an antibiotic, were included.

EXCLUSIONS: publications in abstract form only; uncontrolled, non-randomised or retrospective studies; studies reporting outcomes with ears (rather than children).

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted from the published reports by the authors independently using standardised data extraction forms and methods. The methodological quality of the included studies was independently assessed by the authors as described in the Cochrane Handbook. Dichotomous results were expressed as an odds ratio using a fixed-effect model together with the 95% confidence intervals. Continuous data were analysed using the weighted mean difference in a fixed-effect model. Tests for heterogeneity between studies were performed using a Mantel-Haenszel approach. In trials with a cross-over design, post cross-over treatment data were not used.

MAIN RESULTS: No study prospectively documented hearing loss associated with OME prior to randomisation. Follow up was mainly short term. The odds ratio for OME persisting after short-term follow up in children treated with oral steroids compared to control was 0.22 (95% CI 0.08 to 0.63). The odds ratio for OME persisting after short-term follow up for children treated with oral steroids plus antibiotic compared to control plus antibiotic was 0.37 (95% CI 0.25 to 0.56). However, there was significant heterogeneity between studies included in the latter comparison (P < 0.01). Trends favoured steroids for most other comparisons, but confidence intervals included unity. There was no evidence of benefit for steroid treatment for OME or hearing loss associated with OME in the longer term.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Both oral and topical intranasal steroids alone or in combination with an antibiotic lead to a quicker resolution of OME in the short term, however, there is no evidence of longer term benefit.

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