Objective: To determine the frequency of serious bacterial infection in well appearing infants aged 0-8 weeks with isolated otitis media (OM).
Methods: Infants with confirmed OM underwent tympanocentesis with middle ear fluid (MEF) culture and complete sepsis evaluation. Enrolled infants were admitted to the hospital for parenteral antibiotics until blood, urine, and CSF cultures were negative for 48 hours.
Results: Forty non-toxic appearing infants were enrolled between January 1994 and April 1995, of whom 15 (38%) had a documented rectal temperature > or =38 degrees C. Bacterial pathogens were isolated from MEF cultures in 25 (62.5%) infants. All afebrile infants had negative blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid cultures (upper limit (UL) 95% CI 0.11). Only two febrile infants had positive cultures from sites other than the MEF (UL 95% CI 0.36).
Conclusion: In our study population, previously healthy, non-toxic appearing afebrile infants aged 2-8 weeks and having isolated OM infrequently have an associated serious bacterial infection, suggesting that outpatient treatment with oral antibiotics and close follow-up may be an option. Further studies with large numbers of infants are necessary to confirm this conclusion.