AHRQ updates 2001 evidence report on treating acute otitis media

Research Activities, February 2011, No. 366

Treating children immediately for uncomplicated otitis media (ear infection) with amoxicillin produces a modest benefit compared with placebo or a delay in using antibiotics. However, this approach may increase the likelihood of diarrhea and rash, according to a new evidence report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Led by Paul G. Shekelle, M.D., Ph.D., of the AHRQ-supported Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center in Santa Monica, the review authors found no evidence that any other antibiotic is superior to amoxicillin for success in treating uncomplicated acute otitis media; that symptoms such as a red, immobile, or bulging eardrum are critical to diagnosis, but the lack of a gold standard for diagnosing acute otitis media currently makes drawing firm conclusions about the precision of diagnostic methods difficult; and that the heptavalent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine has had an impact on microbial epidemiology.

The evidence review also found that long-term use of antibiotics in children prone to the disease decreases episodes by about half. However, drawbacks, such as diarrhea, allergic reactions, and the emergence of bacterial resistance, should be weighed against the risk of the ear infection's recurrence. AHRQ's report was requested by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For more details, go to Management of Acute Otitis Media: Update .

Page last reviewed February 2011
Internet Citation: AHRQ updates 2001 evidence report on treating acute otitis media: Research Activities, February 2011, No. 366. February 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/feb11/0211RA37.html