Objectives: The diagnosis in children with middle ear symptoms is often difficult. Tympanometry is recommended as a supplementary diagnostic tool with a high predictive value for fluid or no fluid in the middle ear. The aim of this study was to examine how tympanometry was used in Danish general practice in 2009, to report common problems general practitioners (GPs) and GP nurses encounter in tympanometry and to evaluate the effect of a practical and theoretical course.
Methods: A 1-year registration of the use of tympanometry in the Danish National Health Service Register in two regions with 40% of all Danish GPs and a survey among 197 participants in a course on diagnosis of otitis media and tympanometry in children were used. The Danish National Health Insurance covers 100% of GPs because they administer reimbursement for their activities, including tympanometry.
Results: During the year 2009, 1433 GPs in 702 clinics were on the list. A total of 417 clinics performed 35 529 tympanometries. Some 285 clinics (40.6%) did not perform tympanometry in 2009. The active clinics performed 42 tympanometries per GP. A 1-day course improved the knowledge and practical skills of the participating GPs and nurses. A majority (70%) stated in a self-reported questionnaire that tympanometry often provided important information, especially about middle ear fluid, and 48% reported that tympanometry several times during the past 2 weeks had changed their management of a middle ear problem. Few had not used their tympanometer during the 2 weeks preceding the survey. The response rate was 72%.
Conclusions: The use of tympanometry is very skewed. A 6-hour course could improve GPs' care of patients with middle ear problems by using tympanometry.