Background: The efficacy of intratympanic steroid (ITS) treatment in sudden deafness (SD) remains controversial. To shed light on this issue, we performed a systematic review of randomized controlled trials to assess the overall efficacy of ITS therapy and to clarify whether it is more suitable as a first-line approach (primary treatment) or as a salvage treatment when traditional systemic agents have failed.
Methods: An electronic database search (MEDLINE and PubMed) was performed with the objective of identifying all studies published in the English language between January 1980 and November 2011 on the efficacy of ITS in the treatment of SD. All relevant articles were retrieved, and the related reference lists were reviewed systematically to identify other reports that could be included. Data were synthesized using the Mantel-Haenszel model. Results are expressed as odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI).
Results: A total of 11 randomized studies including 472 subjects allocated to ITS and 453 controls were selected. Intratympanic steroid regimens used and treatments administered to controls varied widely across studies. When considering together trials investigating ITS therapy as a primary (n = 4) or salvage (n = 7) treatment, the common OR for recovery was 1.7 (95% CI, 1.3-2.3). When considering them separately, the common ORs for recovery were 0.9 (95% CI, 0.7-1.6) for primary and 2.9 (95% CI, 1.9-4.5) for salvage therapy.
Conclusion: Intratympanic steroid therapy seems to confer a certain degree of benefit as a salvage but not as a primary treatment of SD. However, further evidence is needed to clarify some yet uncertain aspects, such as the optimal protocol of therapy.