Update on eustachian tube dysfunction and the patulous eustachian tube

Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2005 Oct;13(5):277-82. doi: 10.1097/01.moo.0000176465.68128.45.


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to summarize the recent knowledge on eustachian tube dysfunction and the patulous eustachian tube.

Recent findings: A clinically useful test for eustachian tube function is still lacking. Narrowing of the isthmus alone was demonstrated to be an insufficient cause of otitis media. Inflammatory mediators identified within the eustachian tube and middle ear cells were causally linked with otitis media with effusion. Increasing evidence was found that allergic disease and reflux may be two of the most important contributors of tubal inflammation causing otitis media with effusion. The adenoid size and proximity to the torus tubaris may also be important in considering which patients with persistent otitis media with effusion may benefit from adenoidectomy. Computed tomography scan has documented loss of soft tissue within the cartilaginous eustachian tube in patients with patulous eustachian tubes. An endoscopic approach to seal the tubal lumen has been found to be effective in relieving patulous symptoms.

Summary: These studies suggest that allergic rhinitis and gastroesophageal reflux should be investigated in patients with eustachian tube dysfunction. Adenoidectomy should also be considered in patients who have adenoids that obstruct the torus tubaris. Patients with a patulous eustachian tube may benefit from an endoscopic closure. Further research is needed to identify a clinically useful test for eustachian tube dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ear Diseases / diagnosis
  • Ear Diseases / etiology
  • Eustachian Tube* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Otitis Media / complications
  • Rhinitis / complications