Diagnosis, Microbial Epidemiology, and Antibiotic Treatment of Acute Otitis Media in Children

A Systematic Review

Published in: JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 304, no. 19, Nov. 17, 2010, p. 2161-2169

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Tumaini Coker, Linda S. Chan, Sydne J. Newberry, Mary Ann Limbos, Marika Booth, Paul G. Shekelle, Glenn S. Takata

Context: Acute otitis media (AOM) is the most common condition for which antibiotics are prescribed for US children; however, wide variation exists in diagnosis and treatment. Objectives: To perform a systematic review on AOM diagnosis, treatment, and the association of heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) use with AOM microbiology. Data Sources: PubMed, Cochrane Databases, and Web of Science, searched to identify articles published from January 1999 through July 2010. Study Selection: Diagnostic studies with a criterion standard, observational studies and randomized controlled trials comparing AOM microbiology with and without PCV7, and randomized controlled trials assessing antibiotic treatment. Data Extraction: Independent article review and study quality assessment by 2 investigators with consensus resolution of discrepancies. Results: Of 8945 citations screened, 135 were included. Meta-analysis was performed for comparisons with 3 or more trials. Few studies examined diagnosis; otoscopic findings of tympanic membrane bulging (positive likelihood ratio, 51 [95% confidence interval {lcub}CI{rcub}, 36-73]) and redness (positive likelihood ratio, 8.4 [95% CI, 7-11]) were associated with accurate diagnosis. In the few available studies, prevalence of Streptococcus pneumoniae decreased (eg, 33%-48% vs 23%-31% of AOM isolates), while that of Haemophilus influenzae increased (41%-43% vs 56%-57%) pre- vs post-PCV7. Short-term clinical success was higher for immediate use of ampicillin or amoxicillin vs placebo (73% vs 60%; pooled rate difference, 12% [95% CI, 5%-18%]; number needed to treat, 9 [95% CI, 6-20]), while increasing the rate of rash or diarrhea by 3% to 5%. Two of 4 studies showed greater clinical success for immediate vs delayed antibiotics (95% vs 80%; rate difference, 15% [95% CI, 6%-24%] and 86% vs 70%; rate difference, 16% [95% CI, 6%-26%]). Data are absent on long-term effects on antimicrobial resistance. Meta-analyses in general showed no significant differences in antibiotic comparative effectiveness. Conclusions: Otoscopic findings are critical to accurate AOM diagnosis. AOM microbiology has changed with use of PCV7. Antibiotics are modestly more effective than no treatment but cause adverse effects in 4% to 10% of children. Most antibiotics have comparable clinical success.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.