Treatment patterns for otitis externa

Michael T. Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Although otitis externa is a common and painful infection of the outer ear canal, there is little specific information available regarding current treatment patterns in the United States. We wanted to examine treatment patterns for otitis externa. Methods: Data were analyzed from the 1993 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and the 1993 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) for adults and children treated for otitis externa. Data analyses included the reasons for physician visits, concomitant diagnoses, types of physicians seen, sources of payment, medical procedures administered, drugs prescribed, and patient disposition following a physician visit. Results: Study results suggested that treatment patterns differ substantially for adults and children, as well as by physician specialty. Although otitis externa is frequently painful, few cases are classified as severe, and the data indicated that less than 20 percent of patients have concomitant diagnoses treatable by medication. Nevertheless, 40 percent of patients received both topical and systemic medication, and many of the oral antibiotics prescribed are not active against Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the most common bacterial pathogens in otitis externa. Conclusions: Appropriate treatment of localized otitis externa with topical antibiotics should eliminate the need for systemic medications. Addition of systemic medications can unnecessarily increase treatment costs and the likelihood of side effects, and could reduce the likelihood of patient compliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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