Interventions for acute otitis externa.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20CD
Acute otitis externa is an inflammatory condition of the ear canal, with or without infection. Symptoms include ear discomfort, itchiness, discharge and impaired hearing. It is also known as 'swimmer's ear' and can usually be treated successfully with a course of ear drops.
To assess the effectiveness of interventions for acute otitis externa.
Our search for published and unpublished trials included the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Trials Register; CENTRAL; PubMed; EMBASE; CINAHL; Web of Science; BIOSIS Previews; Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; mRCT and additional sources. The date of the most recent search was 6 January 2009.
Randomised controlled trials evaluating ear cleaning, topical medication or systemic therapy in the treatment of acute otitis externa were eligible.We excluded complicated acute otitis externa; otitis externa secondary to otitis media or chronic suppurative otitis media; chronic otitis externa; fungal otitis externa (otomycosis); eczematous otitis externa; viral otitis externa and furunculosis.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
Two authors assessed eligibility and quality.
Nineteen randomised controlled trials with a total of 3382 participants were included. Three meta-analyses were possible. The overall quality of studies was low.Topical antimicrobials containing steroids were significantly more effective than placebo drops: OR 11 (95% CI 2.00 to 60.57; one trial).In general, no clinically meaningful differences were noted in clinical cure rates between the various topical interventions reviewed. One notable exception involved a trial of high quality which showed that acetic acid was significantly less effective when compared with antibiotic/steroid drops in terms of cure rate at two and three weeks (OR 0.29 (95% CI 0.13 to 0.62) and OR 0.25 (95% CI 0.11 to 0.58) respectively).One trial of low quality comparing quinolone with non-quinolone antibiotics did not find any difference in clinical cure rate.No trials evaluated the effectiveness of ear cleaning.Only two trials evaluated steroid-only drops. One trial of low quality suggested no significant difference between steroid and antibiotic/steroid but did not report the magnitude or precision of the result. Another trial of moderate quality comparing an oral antihistamine with topical steroid against topical steroid alone found that cure rates in both groups were high and comparable (100% (15/15) and 94% (14/15) respectively at three weeks).