Otitis media (OM) represents a complex set of clinically defined disease phenotypes. Epidemiological and pathological data suggest that inflammation of the middle ear occurs on a continuum of disease. Here I review epidemiological data and apply mathematical modelling to better define the interrelation of OM phenotypes, including the relationship of upper respiratory tract infection to acute OM (AOM), of AOM to OM with effusion, and of recurrent OM to chronicity of effusion. I use these mathematical models to represent OM graphically as a 'landscape of disease'. This novel nosology may enable clinicians and researchers to better conceptualise middle ear inflammation in its various forms, although the limits of its application are also discussed.
© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.