Clinical qualitative evaluation of the diagnosis of acute otitis media in general practice

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Jan;72(1):23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2007.09.010. Epub 2007 Oct 31.


Objectives: Assess the quality of the diagnosis of acute otitis media (AOM) given by general practitioners (GPs) on a daily basis and compare it with the diagnosis of ear, nose and throat specialist (ENTS) which is considered as the gold standard.

Methodology: Every GP had to include six children aged 1-4 years for whom he suspected or diagnosed that they were suffering from AOM. Parents had to accept to see the ENTS participating in the survey within 48 h.

Results: Twenty-four GPs took part in the survey and included at least one child, which amounts to a final 57% acceptability rate. Two hundred and eight eardrums were included in the survey. 21.9% of assumptions or diagnosis's of AOM (30/137) were declared null by the ENTS. GPs diagnose AOM without any doubt only in 54% of all cases. The diagnosis and the assumption of AOM were respectively confirmed in 83.8% of all cases and 71.4% by the ENTS. The combination of redness and bulge, and isolated redness accounted for respectively 44.3% and 26.2% of the main otoscopical factors reminiscent of the AOM according to GPs. In the case of redness and bulge, the diagnosis was confirmed in 83% of all cases by the ENTS as opposed to 75% regarding the isolated redness. An AOM was suspected in 57.1% of the eardrums barely or not visible or without any sign of infection and not confirmed in 25% of all cases.

Conclusion: The global over diagnosis is 21.9% and 25% when the otoscopy is hindered by the presence of cerumen or when the eardrums are only inflammatory. Even though the over diagnosis is inferior to the one mentioned in published writings, post-graduate teaching on the various cerumen removal techniques and the use of pneumatic otoscopy could contribute to improving the quality of diagnosing AOM.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Cerumen
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis*
  • Otolaryngology
  • Otoscopy
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires