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Diagnostic methods for acute otitis media in 1 to 12 year old children: A cross sectional study in primary health care

Journal article
Authors Pär-Daniel Sundvall
CE Papachristodoulou
Lena Margareta Nordeman
Published in BMC Family Practice
Volume 20
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Centre for antibiotic resistance research, CARe
Language en
Keywords Acute otitis media, Children, Diagnosis, Guidelines, Primary health care
Subject categories Other Medical Sciences


© 2019 The Author(s). Background: Otoscopy alone has low sensitivity and specificity for acute otitis media (AOM). Otomicroscopy and pneumatic methods are superior to otoscopy. However, these methods require clinical skills. The use of different diagnostic methods for AOM differs between countries and has not been evaluated in Sweden since new guidelines were introduced in 2010. This study aimed to describe the extent of which diagnostic methods and written advice were used for AOM in children 1 to 12 years old. Methods: In this cross-sectional study all general practitioners (GPs) and specialist trainees in primary care (STs) at 27 primary health care centres in Sweden were asked to complete a self-administrated questionnaire including diagnostic approach and the management of AOM; 75% (111/148) responded to the questionnaire. Outcome Measures: GPs versus STs and their gender, the use of otoscopy, pneumatic otoscopy, otomicroscopy, tympanometry and written advice. Logistic regressions were used to evaluate the association between GPs versus STs and their gender and the use of diagnostic methods and written advice. Results: To diagnose AOM, 98% of the GPs and STs often or always used otoscopy, in addition to this 17% often or always used otomicroscopy, 18% pneumatic otoscopy and 11% tympanometry. Written advice to parents was provided often or always by 19% of the GPs and STs. The GPs used otomicroscopy more often than STs, adjusted OR 4.9 (95% CI 1.5-17; p = 0.011). For the other diagnostic methods, no differences were found. Female GPs and STs provided written advice more often than male GPs and STs, OR 5.2 (95% CI, 1.6-17; p = 0.0061), adjusted for GP versus ST. Conclusions: Otoscopy was by far the most commonly used method for the diagnosis of AOM. Female GPs and STs provided written advice more frequently than did their male colleagues. GPs used the significantly better method otomicroscopy more often than STs, therefore, it is important to emphasise teaching of practical skills in otomicroscopy in the specialist training programme for general practice. A correct diagnosis is important for avoiding potentially harmful antibiotic treatments, antimicrobial resistance and possible delay of other diagnoses.

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