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Original Article
May 2000

Prevention of Otitis Media With Effusion by Repeated Air Inflation in a Monkey Model

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (Dr Alper), and the Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000;126(5):609-614. doi:10.1001/archotol.126.5.609

Objectives  To test the following hypotheses that (1) middle ear (ME) air inflation prevents the development of otitis media with effusion in a monkey model of functional eustachian tube obstruction, and (2) ME inflation treatment of otitis media with effusion can cause artifactual clinical improvements due to fluid displacement from the tympanum to the adjacent airspaces.

Design  Randomized controlled trial.

Subjects  Twelve cynomolgus monkeys.

Interventions  Eustachian tube dysfunction was induced by botulinum paralysis of the right tensor veli palatini muscle in all monkeys. Before and on study days 9, 15, and 21 after paralysis, the presence or absence, and distribution of ME effusion were documented using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Right and left ears were examined twice daily for 21 days using tympanometry, and right ME air inflation (n=6 ears) or sham inflation (n=6 ears) was done immediately after those examinations if the ME pressure was −100 mm H2O or less. On 10 of the scheduled MRI evaluations, the MRI was repeated immediately after an inflation to document the possible redistribution of fluid within the ME caused by the maneuver.

Results  Middle ear pressure remained within normal limits for the follow-up period in 11 of the 12 nonparalyzed left ears, in none of the 6 sham-inflated right ears, and in 3 of the 6 air-inflated right ears. Three air-inflated right ears developed flat tympanograms (ie, days 14 through 16). Magnetic resonance imaging documented inflammation and fluid in 1 of the 11 nonparalyzed left ears and in all sham-inflated right ears. Lesser degrees of inflammation and effusion based on MRI evaluations were noted for the 3 air-inflated right ears that retained near-ambient pressures when compared with the right 3 ears that developed a flat tympanogram. The MRI measure of effusion quantity within the tympanum was decreased acutely after inflation, but was simultaneously increased in the adjacent airspaces of the temporal bone.

Conclusions  Repeated air inflation prevented the development of otitis media with effusion in 50% of the ears with functional eustachian tube obstruction. Postinflation MRI documented the displacement of fluid by inflation from the tympanum to the mastoid and petrous air cells. Using standard clinical evaluations such as tympanometry and otoscopy, this fluid redistribution can cause a false diagnosis of improvement.