Objective.The role of routine antimicrobial treatment of acute middle-ear infections is under debate, because the efficacy of antimicrobials in the resolution of middle-ear fluid has not been unambiguously proven. Acute tube otorrhea is regarded as evidence of acute otitis media, and for methodologic reasons it was chosen to provide objectivity for diagnostics and outcome assessment. The objective of this study was to assess whether amoxicillin-clavulanate accelerates the resolution of acute tube otorrhea.

Design and setting.Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in outpatient setting.

Patients.Volunteer sample of basically healthy 6- to 72-month-old children with a tympanostomy tube. Eligibility required having acute tube otorrhea of <48 hours’ of duration and no prior treatment within the last 2 weeks. The mean age of the participants was 25 months; they had a history of 3 episodes of acute otitis media (median), and 99% had manifestations of a concomitant respiratory infection. Of 79 randomized patients, 7 were withdrawn because of adverse events; 66 patients completed the study.

Interventions.Amoxicillin-clavulanate (N = 34; 45 mg/kg/d) or matching placebo (N = 32) for 7 days and daily suction of middle-ear fluid through tympanostomy tube.

Main outcome measures.Duration of acute tube otorrhea and duration of bacterial growth in middle-ear fluid.

Results.The median duration of tube otorrhea was significantly shorter in amoxicillin-clavulanate than in the placebo group (3 vs 8 days). At the end of the 7-day medication period, tube otorrhea was resolved in 28 of 34 children receiving amoxicillin-clavulanate compared with 13 of 32 children on placebo (treatment-control difference 41%; 95% confidence interval, 20%–63%; number needed to treat, 2.4). The median duration of bacterial growth in middle-ear fluid was shorter in amoxicillin-clavulanate than in the placebo group (1 vs 8 days).

Conclusions.Oral antibiotic treatment significantly accelerates the resolution of acute tube otorrhea by reducing bacterial growth in middle-ear fluid.

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