Background: Acute otitis media (AOM) is an acute inflammation of the middle ear commonly found in children, for which antibiotics are frequently prescribed. However, antibiotics are beneficial for only one third of AOM cases, and then, with only modest benefit. Since antibiotic use leads to risk of side effects and resistance, effective alternative treatments are required. Corticosteroids are a candidate because of their anti-inflammatory effects, although evidence of their efficacy and harms is insufficient. Accordingly, we plan a large, rigorous clinical trial to test this. Initially, we will test pre-specified methods and procedures (including the overall process, resources, management, and scientific components) in a pilot study of corticosteroids for AOM, which will inform a future, definitive trial.
Methods: This is a pilot pragmatic, randomised, open-label, single-blind, controlled study of corticosteroids as either monotherapy or an addition to antibiotics in 60 children aged 6 months to 12 years with AOM in two cities (Jakarta and Bekasi) in Indonesia. We will randomise eligible children to prednisolone or control. We will also stratify by disease severity and randomise those with mild AOM to expectant observation plus prednisolone or observation alone and those with severe AOM to prednisolone plus antibiotic or antibiotic alone. Our outcomes are to determine (1) recruitment rates, (2) the success of the study procedures, (3) the ability to measure planned outcomes of the proposed main study, (4) the compliance to study visits and study medication, and (5) verification of the sample size calculation for the main study. We will also assess middle ear effusion using tympanometry as part of a mechanistic sub-study.
Discussion: This study will test all procedures in preparation for the main study, including several potential obstacles and challenges from the perspective of participating physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and the parents of eligible children. This information will be useful for developing strategies to overcome practical and procedural issues. This study may also provide information about the effects of corticosteroids on middle ear effusion in AOM.
Trial registration: Study registry number: ACTRN12618000049279. Name of registry: the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR). Date of registration: 16 January 2018.