Current Infectious Disease Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 205–212

The etiology, pathophysiology, and management of otitis media with effusion

  • Christopher C. Butler
  • R. Gareth Williams


Otitis media with effusion (OME) is a common and important condition that may result in developmental delay in children, and significant health care resources are devoted to its management. Newer techniques including polymerase chain reaction are implicating organisms not previously considered important in etiology. The role of gastroesophageal reflux as a cause of OME is likely to receive greater research attention. Regarding prevention, more is being learned about potentially modifiable risk factors such as environmental smoke, care outside the home, and breast feeding. Although immunization may to play a role in the future, existing evidence suggests that the general population of children should not be immunized in order to prevent OME. Several major studies have recently added to the understanding of epidemiology and management. Large trials in the United States, the Netherlands, and the UK suggest that OME is not an appropriate condition to include in a screening program. In addition, the advantages of early treatment with ventilation tubes over watchful waiting in terms of language development tend be modest and diminish by about 18 months. Treatment with hearing aids should be further evaluated. The search for effective medical management continues, and better ways are being identified of targeting interventions to those children with OME who are most likely to benefit.


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Copyright information

© Current Science Inc 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher C. Butler
    • 1
  • R. Gareth Williams
  1. 1.Department of General PracticeUniversity of Wales College of edicine, Llanedeyrn Health CentreCardiffUK

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