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Minerva Pediatr. 2003 Oct;55(5):415-38.

Acute otitis media disease management.

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  • 1Elmwood Pediatric Group, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


A first step in management decisions regarding otitis media must focus on accurate diagnosis to distinguish normal from acute otitis media (AOM) from otitis media with effusion (OME) or a retracted tympanic membrane without middle ear effusion. There are several classification schemes for AOM that may impact management decisions: patients with acute, persistent, recurrent, or chronic AOM may have a different distribution of bacterial pathogens and a different likelihood of success from antimicrobial therapy. Patient age, prior treatment history and daycare attendance are other important variables. The natural history of AOM without antibiotic treatment is generally favorable; however, from the few studies available, this is difficult to quantitate because the diagnosis was infrequently confirmed by tympanocentesis leaving the possibility that many patients entered into these trials may not have had bacterial AOM. Antibiotic choices should reflect pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic data and clinical trial results demonstrating effectiveness in eradication of the most likely pathogens based on tympanocentesis sampling and antibiotic sensitivity testing. Thereafter, compliance factors such as formulation, dosing schedule and duration of treatment and accessibility factors such as availability and cost should be taken into account. The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance among AOM pathogens and the changing susceptibility profiles of these bacteria should be considered in antibiotic selection. Current best practice recommends amoxicillin for uncomplicated AOM; continuing or switching to an alternative antibiotic based on clinical response after 48 hours of therapy; and selection of second line antibiotics as first line choices when the patient has already been on an antibiotic within the previous month or is otitis prone. Preferred second-line agents frequently noted in various guidelines include amoxicillin/clavulanate, cefdinir, cefpodoxime, cefprozil, and cefuroxime. Three injections of ceftriaxone or gatifloxacin (when approved) or diagnostic/therapeutic tympanocentisis (when approved) become a third-line treatment option. No single antibiotic or management strategy is ideal for all patients.

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