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Science / Medicine : A Weekly Roundup of News, Features and Commentary : It's Passe but Earaches Go

December 28, 1987

A new study has cast doubt on the treatment most often used for a common medical problems among children, chronic fluid in the ear following earaches.

The study, the first directly contrasting the two leading methods of treatment, found the outmoded method of treatment--removing the adenoids--is actually more effective than the most commonly used method--inserting tiny tubes through the eardrums to drain out the fluid.

"We are recommending . . . the surgeon should consider not putting the tubes in in the first place," said Dr. George A. Gates of the University of Texas Health Science Center who headed the study.

About 3 million children get ear infections each year in the United States. Although the condition can usually be treated effectively with antibiotics, about 80% of children are left with a chronic problem in which fluid accumulates in the middle ear. The fluid can impair hearing and can lead to permanent hearing loss in some cases.

Although each treatment method has been evaluated individually in previous studies, the new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to contrast them, Gates said.

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