Although primarily considered a childhood disease, acute otitis media (AOM) also occurs in adults. Data on the burden of this condition in adults are, however, scarce.
To explore the primary care incidence and current management of AOM in adults.
All patients aged 15 and older included in the routine health care database of the Julius General Practitioners’ Network were followed from 2015 to 2018 (contributing to a total of 1 261 575 person-years). We extracted data on AOM episodes, AOM-related consultations, comorbidities, and antibiotic and analgesic prescriptions.
Five thousand three hundred and fifty-eight patients experienced one or more AOM episodes (total number of AOM episodes: 6667; mean 1.2 per patient). The overall AOM incidence was 5.3/1000 person-years and was fairly stable over the study period. Incidence was particularly high in atopic patients (7.3/1000 person-years) and declined with age (from 7.1 in patients 15-39 years of age to 2.7/1000 person-years in those aged 64 years and older). Oral antibiotics, predominantly amoxicillin, were prescribed in 46%, and topical antibiotics in 21% of all episodes.
Over the past years, the incidence of AOM in adults in primary care has been stable. Oral antibiotic prescription rates resemble those in children with AOM, whereas a remarkably high topical antibiotic prescription rate was observed. Future prognostic research should inform on the need and feasibility of prospective studies into the best management strategy in this condition.