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Despite its small size, the ear is a very complicated organ. The three main parts of the ear are known as the inner, middle, and outer ear. At PhotoniCare, we focus our efforts on the middle ear. The middle ear is the area located directly behind the eardrum.
The Middle Ear
Most middle ear infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an infection. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has a tendency to cause swelling and blockage of the eustachian tubes. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes persistent fluid can lead to an infection.
Viewing the Surface of the Eardrum
Traditionally, when a healthcare provider checks you or your child for an ear infection, they use an instrument called an otoscope. An otoscope is basically a pen light attached to a magnifying glass, and this simple device has been used in medicine for the past 150 years. The otoscope comes with several pointed tips called specula. A speculum is chosen based on the size of the patient’s ear opening. To use the otoscope, a healthcare provider gently inserts the appropriately sized speculum into the ear canal to look at the surface of the eardrum.
Traditional otoscopy offers a high-level of variability and subjective observation based on the clinician experience and patient cooperation. Additionally, there may be wax blocking his/her view, or the patient may be uncooperative (think tired and sick child), which prevents proper positioning of the otoscope. These real-life impediments are what makes diagnosing AOM so difficult. Improvements in technology, like the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope, aim to bring clarity to this very subjective process of assessing middle ear health.
A New View of the Middle Ear
In the search for a solution, there has never been a method to non-invasively ascertain the contents of the middle ear, a key determinant when considering an infection diagnosis such as Acute Otitis Media (AOM) – until now!
The OtoSight Middle Ear Scope uses a novel application of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to directly visualize fluid in the middle ear, a key determinant when following AAP Guidelines for diagnosing middle ear infections such as AOM. The technology in the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope is 90.6% accurate when assessing MEE*. This is a significant increase over the 50% accuracy with standard otoscopy published in 2001**.
How to Interpret an middle ear scan
Unlike other technologies, OtoSight can accurately determine middle ear effusion, even in the presence of cerumen. In this video, we’ll share with you how to understand and interpret at OtoSight Exam.
When to Visit Your Healthcare Provider
Ear pain and concerns about hearing are one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the doctor. If you suspect that your child has an ear infection, then PhotoniCare recommends that you contact your healthcare provider. A healthcare provider will examine your child’s ear for an infection or if there is another issue causing your child’s symptoms and pain. If the healthcare provider does suspect an ear infection, antibiotics may or may not be recommended. Generally speaking, an ear infection has the potential to resolve itself without antibiotic treatment. In the case of a severe middle ear infection with infected fluid in the middle ear, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the healthcare provider prescribe antibiotics. However, the guidelines recommend the “watchful waiting” approach for non-severe middle ear infections in children over the age of two. The overall goal is to reduce over-prescription of antibiotics.
*Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Mar;162(3):367-374
**Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155(10):1137-1142.
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