Management of otitis media with effusion in young children

C M Paap
Annals of Pharmacotherapy 1996, 30 (11): 1291-7

OBJECTIVE: To summarize and critique the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) Clinical Practice Guideline for the management of otitis media with effusion (OME) in children.

DATA SOURCES: The AHCPR Clinical Practice Guideline, Otitis Media with Effusion in Young Children; the Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians, Managing Otitis Media with Effusion in Young Children; and the Parent Guide, Middle Ear Fluid in Young Children, were the primary data sources. The AHCPR developed the Guideline based on a comprehensive literature review from multiple bibliographic databases, including the National Library of Medicine. Data were also collected during open hearings and from unpublished sources derived from a call in the Federal Register. Additional citations from the biomedical literature were used for supporting evidence.

STUDY SELECTION: Peer-reviewed reports of controlled, randomized studies were preferred, but other study designs were considered. Over 3000 abstracts were identified, of which 378 articles were used for data extraction, and an additional 100 articles were included from bibliography review and panel recommendations. An expert panel reviewed the data and incorporated clinical expertise into the development of consensus statements.

DATA EXTRACTION: Data were extracted to apply to a base case with OME to narrow the scope of the Guideline. The base case was defined as a child who is 1-3 years old, is otherwise healthy, and has no underlying craniofacial, neurologic, or sensory conditions. Multiple meta-analyses were done to help the panel come to conclusions on several issues.

DATA SYNTHESIS: The Guideline documents carefully outlined treatment algorithms for the management of OME in otherwise healthy children. The main areas that need to be further clarified are the role of more aggressive identification of causative pathogens, when antimicrobial therapy should be initiated, and which antimicrobial agents are preferred for the treatment of OME. There are many vague areas in the Guideline that allow for multiple interpretations. Data regarding the use of corticosteroids were influenced heavily by the expert opinion of the panel rather than the literature-based evidence and potential cost implications. The Guideline provided specific recommendations for the surgical management of OME. Confounding patient factors that would affect decisions on management of OME, such as underlying disease states and physical or mental abnormalities, were not addressed in the Guideline.

CONCLUSIONS: The documents were well organized and provide detailed explanation of the recommendations. The Guideline provides specific criteria for the surgical management of OME, but is vague in its recommendations on the medical management of OME with antibiotics, corticosteroids, and the use of invasive tympanocentesis in the evaluation of OME in otherwise healthy children.

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