August 04, 2011

Novel Treatment for Glue Ear?

Glue ear is the layman's term for thick mucoid effusion of the middle ear, usually due to chronic ear infections.

The fluid itself is like maple syrup and usually treated with ear tube placement followed by suctioning as much of the fluid out as possible. However, given there is always some residual present, antibiotic ear drops with steroids is often prescribed.

Unfortunately, these patients are at higher risk of requiring repeated sets of tubes after the body spits them out.


Because of a phenomenon called biofilms... Think of it as teflon armour made of slime for infections. You can put antibiotics and steroids on it, but they kind of just slip off. Such biofilms make infections nearly 1000 times LESS susceptible to medications. In order to truly eradicate the biofilm (and underlying "hidden" infection), you either have to "scrape" it off which is not possible in the middle ear or use very high concentrations of antibiotics... much greater than that obtained using oral or IV antibiotics.

Though ear drops containing high concentrations of antibiotics are possible, the drops tend to come out of the ear just as easily as they go in preventing prolonged and enduring contact.

That's were the recent innovation comes in...

Scientists in England have developed a biodegradable antibiotic "pellet" that can be inserted into the middle ear during surgery where it will slowly release high concentrations of antibiotics to target any infections present (active or inactive) over 3 weeks continuously. Furthermore, the pellet contains N-acetylcysteine which effectively breaks apart the biofilm.

In essence, this pellet is like an armour-piercing bullet.

Of course, it is not available in the US yet... nor is it FDA approved.

Read more about this here.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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