Can party balloons replace autoinflation balloons to treat glue ear? A technical comparison

Katherine Marshall, Rafael Perera, Paul Glasziou, Susannah Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Autoinflation balloons are used to treat patients with otitis media with effusion to help avoid surgery.

AIM: To compare the ability of party balloons and Otovent® balloons to produce sufficient pressure for a Valsalva manoeuvre.

DESIGN & SETTING: We used pressure testing to determine the number of times each balloon could produce pressures sufficient for a Valsalva manoeuvre. Subsequently, we compared Otovent® balloons with spherical party balloons in a pilot clinical trial of 12 healthy adults.

METHOD: Each balloon was inflated 20 times and the maximum pressure was recorded. Three balloons of each type were tested to 50 inflations to assess pressures over persistent use.

RESULTS: Otovent® balloons mean inflation pressure was 93 mmHg (95% CI 89-97 mmHg) on first inflation, dropping to 83 mmHg (95% CI 80-86 mmHg) after 20 inflations. Two types of spherical party balloon required mean inflation pressures of 84 mmHg (95% CI 77-90 mmHg) and 108 mmHg (95% CI 97-119 mmHg) on first inflation, dropping to 74 mmHg (95% CI 68-81 mmHg) and 83 mmHg (95% CI 77-88 mmHg) after 20 inflations. In the pilot trial, there was no difference between the ability of Otovent® and spherical balloons (χ2=0.24, P=0.89) to produce the sensation of a Valsalva manoeuvre.

CONCLUSION: Otovent® balloons can be used more than the 20 times quoted by the manufacturer. The two spherical balloons produced similar pressures to Otovent® balloons, indicating potentially the same clinical effect. The pilot study suggests a potential use of spherical party balloons instead of Otovent® balloons as a cost-efficient treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalBJGP Open
Issue number3
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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