While otitis media is perhaps the most common disease of childhood that receives medical attention, there is little agreement concerning the efficacy of the medical and surgical therapies employed to try to alleviate its symptoms or hasten its natural resolution. Because various surgeries including adenoidectomy, myringotomy, and insertion of tympanostomy tubes are frequently involved in the treatment of otitis media with effusion (OME), it is likely the most expensive condition being managed in national terms. In an attempt to elucidate the most appropriate management of this condition, a meta-analysis was attempted to the 12 randomized control trials of surgical treatments for OME in children, published between 1966 and 1990. Heterogeneity both in the populations and comparisons studied and in the outcomes presented made meta-analysis an inappropriate method for clarifying this area of clinical uncertainty. Important elements in the design of randomized control trials that should be included in future studies of treatment for OME are therefore discussed.