National trends in emergency department antibiotic prescribing for children with acute otitis media, 1996 2005

Acad Emerg Med. 2007 Dec;14(12):1172-5. doi: 10.1197/j.aem.2007.07.011.


Objectives: Withholding antibiotics in nontoxic children with acute otitis media (AOM) is now recommended to reduce bacterial resistance rates. Using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), the authors describe the national trends for prescribing antibiotics in children with AOM presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in the United States over the past decade. The authors hypothesized that the rates of prescribing antibiotics would decline over time.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of NHAMCS databases. A national sampling of ED visits for 1996-2005 was used to identify trends in ED prescription of antibiotics to patients with AOM. The National Drug Code Directory Drug Classes were used to identify type of antibiotic prescribed. Frequency and type of antibiotic prescription patterns over time were evaluated.

Results: There were 2.6 million and 2.1 million ED visits for AOM during the first and last years of the study. Children ages 2-12 years accounted for about 40% of all ED visits for AOM, with another 40% in the younger than 2 years age group and 20% in the older than 12 years of age group. During the first and last year of the study, 79.2% and 91.3% of the patients with AOM were prescribed antibiotics, respectively. There was a slight increasing trend in the proportion prescribed antibiotics over time (p = 0.02). The rates of use of antibiotics for AOM were similar in all three age groups.

Conclusions: There was a slight increase in the percentage of children with AOM who were prescribed antibiotics in the ED between 1996 and 2005. There was also no change in the patterns of prescribing antibiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy*
  • Otitis Media / epidemiology
  • Pediatrics / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents