The predictive value of tympanometry in the diagnosis of middle ear effusion

Authors


G.W.R. Watters FRCS Department of Oto laryngology, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hants PO6 3LY, UK.

Abstract

Over a 12-month period 501 children (age range 11 months to 15 years) underwent surgery for a possible middle ear effusion. All had tympanometry performed within 2 h of surgery. The results of tympanometry were correlated with the surgical findings in 955 ears. A type-B tympanogram has a high sensitivity (0.91) in predicting middle ear effusion with good specificity (0.79). A type-A tympanogram has a very high specificity (0.99) in predicting a dry middle ear but low sensitivity (0.34). Both the positive (0.91) and negative (0.84) predictive values of a type-A tympanogram are high. The addition of a type-C tympanogram increases the sensitivity of predicting a dry middle ear to 0.79. The positive predictive value of a peaked (type-A or -C) tympanogram is 0.71 and should be considered strong evidence that the middle ear is dry. Tympanometry is the best clinical test for the presence or absence of a middle ear effusion, and on the basis of preoperative tympanometry alone the need for surgery should be carefully reassessed.

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