Table: Middle Ear Fluid Treatment

TreatmentAdvantagesDisadvantages
Observation
  • In about 60 percent of children, middle ear fluid goes away without treatment within 3 months; in 85 percent it goes away within 6 months. There is very little cost and no side effects of observation.
  • Middle ear fluid does not go away in about 40 percent of children in 3 months and in about 15 percent in 6 months.
Antibiotic drug
  • May increase chance (by about 14 percent) and speed of middle ear fluid going away.
  • May decrease chance of middle ear infection.
  • Middle ear fluid may not go away.
  • Unwanted drug effects (such as diarrhea, rash).
  • Development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
  • Bother of buying and giving drug.
  • Cost of drug.
Surgery (tubes)
  • Middle ear fluid goes away right away.
  • Hearing returns to normal right away.
  • Temporary discomfort for child.
  • Risks of anesthesia.
  • May need to protect ears during bathing and swimming while tubes are in place.
  • Some children need another surgery to place new tubes in the ears.
  • Eardrum changes possible.
  • Time lost to take child for surgery.
  • Most costly choice.

From: 12, Middle Ear Fluid in Young Children: Parent Guide

Cover of AHCPR Consumer Guides
AHCPR Consumer Guides.
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (US).

NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.