Purpose of review: Otitis media is the most common bacterial infection among children, accounting for as many as 30 million office visits annually. Proper treatment has become critical as offending pathogens become increasingly resistant to antibiotics and the cost of managing the disorder has exceeded 3 billion dollars per year. However, data suggest that many practitioners still struggle with the diagnosis of otitis media and often recommend medical and surgical intervention inappropriately. This article presents recent advances in the otitis media literature and an evidence-based approach to its management.
Recent findings: Recent investigations have resulted in the following findings: (1) bacterial biofilms may account for the persistence of middle ear disease; (2) there is increasing evidence that heredity and reflux are risk factors for otitis media; (3) primary care providers may be receiving poor otitis media training, leading to inadequate diagnostic skills; (4) medical and surgical therapy are of limited utility in the management of acute and recurrent acute otitis media; (5) antibiotics and steroids are of limited value in the treatment of chronic middle ear effusion; (6) delayed management of effusion may not adversely affect development in children; (7) vaccination for pneumococcus may alter the serotypes responsible for otitis media; and (8) vaccine candidates for other middle ear pathogens are under investigation.
Summary: Management of otitis media is constantly evolving, based on research from a variety of medical subspecialties. It is incumbent on the otolaryngologist and primary care providers treating otitis media to keep pace with and synthesize these findings into a rational approach to treatment.