This and That: Ear Tubes and Addiction Medicine

Interesting articles from recent NEJM:

A Hoberman et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 1789-99. Tympanostomy Tubes or Medical Management for Recurrent Acute Otitis Media

A quick read of this article suggested very bad news for our ENT colleagues. In this prospective, randomized trial (n=250), the authors did not find a significant advantage of tympanostomy tubes over medical management of acute otitis media (OM) among 6-35 month olds with recurrent OM in an intention-to-treat analysis, the rate (±SE) of episodes of acute otitis media per child-year during a 2-year period was 1.48±0.08 in the tympanostomy-tube group and 1.56±0.08 in the medical-management group (P=0.66).

In an associated editorial (pg 1859-60), (Ellen Wald notes that only 55% of children in the medical management group were actually treated medically throughout the trial making the sample size too small. Her advice: “In a child older than 2 years of age, we can forecast that infections will be fewer in the coming year and that medical treatment should be continued. In the younger child, there is a nearly 50% likelihood that the frequency of infections will continue; the child is likely to have fewer and less severe episodes of acute otitis media with less exposure to antibiotics if tympanostomy-tube placement is undertaken.”

Time to first recurrent episode of acute otitis media (Figure 2). Cumulative percentage of children with recurrent OM with one minus Kaplan-Meier survival estimates according to trial group.

E Poorman. NEJM 2021; 384: 1783-1784. The Number Needed to Prescribe — What Would It Take to Expand Access to Buprenorphine?

This article describes how many physicians are reluctant to treat opioid use disorder. The author notes that “prescribing buprenorphine is one of the most effective ways to save a life. In one study, buprenorphine treatment was associated with a 37% reduction in all-cause mortality during the year after a nonfatal overdose. This reduction is larger than the reduction in mortality associated with any blood-pressure medication, diabetic agent, or statin….But much…will depend on physicians believing that people with a substance use disorder aren’t just “addicts” but are people with a chronic medical disease that we can and should treat.”

Early antibiotic use and the development of inflammatory bowel disease

Another study adds weight to the idea that early antibiotic use may increase the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (J Pediatr 2013; 162: 510-4).

Using a nested case-control design, the authors matched 2377 controls to 294 children with IBD in a population-based database from Manitoba, Canada.  Specifically, the authors looked at the frequency of otitis media diagnosis and the likelihood of subsequent IBD.  By age 5 years, 89% of IBD cases had at least one diagnosis of otitis media, compared with 82% of the controls.  Despite the high frequency in both groups, the authors determined that individuals with a diagnosis of otitis media before age 5 years were 2.8-fold more likely to be an IBD case.

Some of the strengths of this study included the fact that it was a population-based analysis dating back to 1984 and likely captured almost all pediatric IBD cases (<19 years).  Nearly all physicians in Manitoba submit billing claims to a single publicly funded source.  Due to the nature of administrative data, this eliminates recall bias.

However, administrative data have several limitations as well.  Other confounding conditions may have been present and not identified; this could include family history and autoimmune diseases.

The authors “suspect” that the linkage between otitis media and IBD relates to the usage of antibiotics and subsequent alterations of the intestinal microflora.  Otitis media may serve as a “sensitive proxy measure” of antibiotic use.  Also, as boys are more frequently treated for otitis media, this may relate to the generally higher incidence of pediatric IBD in males.

For anyone interested in the association between antibiotic exposure and IBD, this study is useful and provides a number of references as well.

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