Incremental health care utilization and costs for acute otitis media in children

Laryngoscope. 2014 Jan;124(1):301-5. doi: 10.1002/lary.24190. Epub 2013 May 31.


Objectives/hypothesis: Determine the incremental health care costs associated with the diagnosis and treatment of acute otitis media (AOM) in children.

Study design: Cross-sectional analysis of a national health-care cost database.

Methods: Pediatric patients (age < 18 years) were examined from the 2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. From the linked medical conditions file, cases with a diagnosis of AOM were extracted, along with comorbid conditions. Ambulatory visit rates, prescription refills, and ambulatory health care costs were then compared between children with and without a diagnosis of AOM, adjusting for age, sex, region, race, ethnicity, insurance coverage, and Charlson comorbidity Index.

Results: A total of 8.7 ± 0.4 million children were diagnosed with AOM (10.7 ± 0.4% annually, mean age 5.3 years, 51.3% male) among 81.5 ± 2.3 million children sampled (mean age 8.9 years, 51.3% male). Children with AOM manifested an additional +2.0 office visits, +0.2 emergency department visits, and +1.6 prescription fills (all P <0.001) per year versus those without AOM, adjusting for demographics and medical comorbidities. Similarly, AOM was associated with an incremental increase in outpatient health care costs of $314 per child annually (P <0.001) and an increase of $17 in patient medication costs (P <0.001), but was not associated with an increase in total prescription expenses ($13, P = 0.766).

Conclusions: The diagnosis of AOM confers a significant incremental health-care utilization burden on both patients and the health care system. With its high prevalence across the United States, pediatric AOM accounts for approximately $2.88 billion in added health care expense annually and is a significant health-care utilization concern.

Keywords: Acute otitis media; children; health care expenditures; health care utilization; incremental analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media / economics*
  • Otitis Media / therapy*