WITHDRAWN: Grommets (ventilation tubes) for recurrent acute otitis media in children

Loretta Lau, Paul Mick, Desmond A Nunez
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018 April 6, 4: CD004741

BACKGROUND: This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in The Cochrane Library in Issue 4, 2008 and previously updated in 2011.Acute suppurative otitis media is one of the most common infectious diseases in childhood. Recurrent acute otitis media is defined for the purposes of this review as either three or more acute infections of the middle ear cleft in a six-month period, or at least four episodes in a year. Strategies for managing the condition include the assessment and modification of risk factors where possible, repeated courses of antibiotics for each new infection, antibiotic prophylaxis and the insertion of ventilation tubes (grommets).

OBJECTIVES: To establish whether grommet insertion reduces the frequency of episodes of recurrent acute otitis media and the proportion of symptomatic children.

SEARCH METHODS: The Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group (CENTDG) Trials Search Co-ordinator searched the CENTDG Trials Register; Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2014, Issue 10); PubMed; EMBASE; CINAHL; Web of Science;; ICTRP and additional sources for published and unpublished trials. The date of the search was 6 November 2014.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials comparing grommet insertion versus control (antibiotics/other treatments/no treatment) for recurrent acute otitis media in children aged from 0 to 16 years.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently selected studies. Three authors independently assessed study quality and extracted data. We synthesised data descriptively.

MAIN RESULTS: Two randomised controlled trials with a total of 148 participants are included in this review. The overall risk of bias in the studies is unclear.The first study randomised 95 children to grommets or control (antibiotic treatment of acute otitis media episodes). For the primary outcome, this study showed that grommet insertion leads to a mean reduction of 1.5 episodes of acute otitis media in the first six months after treatment. In six months of follow-up significantly more children in the grommet group had no episodes of acute otitis media (P value < 0.001). Complications of surgery included grommet blockage with acute otitis media requiring re-operation within six months in 3/54 children who underwent grommet insertion. Adverse effects were not documented in the control group. The following pre-defined secondary outcomes were not reported: change in symptom scores for otalgia or otorrhoea, alteration in the frequency of otalgia or otorrhoea, and number of days at nursery or school lost secondary to acute otitis media.The second study reported on 53 of 68 children who were randomised to grommet insertion or six months of once a day sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim antibiotic prophylaxis. There was no significant difference in the primary outcome, number of episodes of acute otitis media, during the six-month follow-up between grommet insertion and antibiotic treatment groups (64.5% in the surgical group versus 45.4% in the antibiotic group had no recurrence, P value = 0.4). Two participants underwent grommet re-insertion to replace extruded tubes during the follow-up period. The only other adverse effect reported was the development of a skin rash in two patients in the medical group. Other pre-defined secondary outcome measures were not reported. The study has a high risk of bias and the results should be interpreted cautiously.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Grommets significantly increase the number of acute otitis media-free children in the first six months after insertion compared to children who receive no treatment. Grommet insertion maybe of equivalent efficacy to once a day antibiotic prophylaxis. Further research is required to confirm the advantage of grommets over no treatment, investigate the effect beyond six months, compare grommet effectiveness against alternative active treatments and confirm the low risk of adverse effects compared to no treatment and all active treatments in recurrent acute otitis media. In the interim clinicians should consider the possible adverse effects of grommet insertion and alternative treatments before recommending surgery.

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