A proposal to limit otoscopy to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics: a call for research.
ABSTRACT Acute otitis media (AOM) is the most common bacterial infection in childhood, accounting for more than 10 million prescriptions written in the USA alone. Otoscopy is the only method to diagnose AOM, is difficult to perform in young children and has been found to be inaccurate. Otoscopy has certain risks, the most common of which are child discomfort, trauma to the external ear canal and parental anxiety. Current guidelines emphasize the importance of making an accurate diagnosis of AOM, which includes the presence of fever, otalgia or both. We propose a new strategy to limit the use of otoscopy to circumstances in which the pretest probability of AOM is high. We suggest indications for mandatory otoscopy and a flow chart outlining a proposal for limiting otoscopy in the management of AOM. Clinical research evaluating the rational use of otoscopy is encouraged to evaluate outcomes and acceptance of this proposal. Limiting otoscopy to clinical conditions in which the likelihood of AOM is high may reduce unnecessary pain and anxiety associated with the procedure, reduce rates of misdiagnosis and support the more judicious use of antibiotics.