Objectives: To investigate the factors contributing to the discrepancies between auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds obtained in the operating room (OR) and hearing outcomes obtained in the follow-up period and to explore the benefits and limitations of performing ABR in the OR.
Methods: A retrospective review study was conducted in a pediatric tertiary care facility. A total of 116 patients were identified with complete records, including OR-ABR results, medical examination and surgical procedure notes, and follow-up medical/audiological evaluation. Patients were divided into three groups: (1) 58 patients with middle ear effusion underwent myringotomy and tube placement, (2) 12 patients underwent myringotomy without tube placement, (3) 46 patients underwent ear examination only without effusion found. OR-ABR results were compared to audiological follow-up evaluations and analyzed for each group.
Results: In patients with middle ear effusion and tube placement, the average threshold difference between OR-ABR and follow-up audiological evaluation was 9.7 dB (± 12.7), with highest discrepancy of 45 dB. On the other hand, in patients with dry ears and/or no tube placement, the average threshold difference was only 3.8 dB (± 8.6). Moreover, the discrepancy was more prominent in patients with mucoid effusion and larger at lower frequency, i.e., 1000 Hz.
Conclusions: The hearing thresholds estimated by ABR testing in the OR can be elevated and follow-up hearing evaluation after tube placement is needed. While ABR testing is valuable in the assessment of pediatric patients, especially for children who are difficult-to-test or have complicated medical conditions, caution should be taken when interpreting OR-ABR results.
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