Evidence Assessment of the Accuracy of Methods of Diagnosing Middle Ear Effusion in Children with Otitis Media with Effusion

Glenn S. Takata, Linda S. Chan, Tricia Morphew, Rita Mangione-Smith, Sally C. Morton, Paul Shekelle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Objectives. We report the findings of an evidence assessment on the accuracy of methods of diagnosing middle ear effusion in children with otitis media with effusion (OME). Methods. We searched Medline (1966-January 2000), the Cochrane Library (through January 2000), and Embase (1980-January 2000) and identified additional articles from reference lists in proceedings, published articles, reports, and guidelines. Excluded were nonhuman studies; case reports; editorials; letters; reviews; practice guidelines; non-English-language publications; and studies on patients with immunodeficiencies, craniofacial anomalies (including cleft palate), primary mucosal disorders, or genetic conditions. From each eligible study, we calculated the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, accuracy, and prevalence of OME in the cohort. We determined the number of studies for each comparison of a diagnostic method and a reference standard listed within the scope of our assessment. For comparisons with 3 or more studies, we derived random effects estimates of sensitivity, specificity, and prevalence rate. Using the pooled estimates, we plotted the performance of each diagnostic test in terms of sensitivity and (1 - specificity) and identified the best performer among the tests included in the comparison. Results. Among 8 diagnostic methods, pneumatic otoscopy had the best apparent performance with a sensitivity of 94% (95% confidence interval: 92%-96%) and a specificity of 80% (95% confidence interval: 75%-86%). However, examiner qualifications were reported inconsistently, and training was not specified. Conclusions. The finding that pneumatic otoscopy can do as well as or better than tympanometry and acoustic reflectometry has significant practical implications. For the typical clinician, pneumatic otoscopy should be easier to use than other diagnostic methods. The important question may be what degree of training will be needed for the clinician to be as effective with pneumatic otoscopy as were the examiners in the studies reviewed in this report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1387
Number of pages9
Issue number6 I
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostic methods
  • Otitis media with effusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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