BACKGROUND: Recommendations for antibiotic treatment of acute otitis media (AOM) have changed over the years, and today many experts recommend initial observation. However, antibiotic prescribing should be considered in children aged <2 years or if AOM is accompanied by discharging ear.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the quality of treatment of AOM in general practice and to explore the influence of selected GP and patient characteristics on antibiotic prescribing.
METHODS: During the winter 2008, a prospective registration of patients diagnosed with AOM was conducted in general practice in Lithuania, Kaliningrad, Spain, Argentina, Sweden and Denmark. Some 1175 patients diagnosed with AOM were registered. Information about age and sex of the patient, duration of symptoms (days), temperature >38.5°C, ear discharge and the antibiotic treatment given was recorded.
RESULTS: Danish GPs had the lowest antibiotic prescription rate for AOM [72.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 67.0-77.8)] and GPs in Kaliningrad had the highest [97.1% (95% CI = 89.8-99.6)]. Narrow-spectrum penicillin was almost exclusively prescribed in the two Nordic countries, while broad-spectrum penicillins, often in combination with clavulanic acid, were prescribed in the other four countries. Macrolides comprised 5-10% of prescriptions. Antibiotic prescribing was associated with the following characteristics of the patients: symptoms for >3 days, ear discharge and fever.
CONCLUSION: The majority of patients with AOM were treated with antibiotics in all six countries, but considerable variations in both prescribing rate and choice of antibiotics were identified.