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Acute otitis media in children: Diagnosis

Ellen R Wald, MD
Section Editors
Morven S Edwards, MD
Glenn C Isaacson, MD, FAAP
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Acute otitis media (AOM), also called suppurative otitis media, is one of the most frequent diagnoses for children seeking acute medical care [1]. It accounts for a large proportion of pediatric antibiotic prescriptions and is associated with considerable medical expenditures [2,3].

The diagnosis of AOM will be reviewed here. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention of AOM are discussed separately. (See "Acute otitis media in children: Epidemiology, microbiology, clinical manifestations, and complications" and "Acute otitis media in children: Treatment" and "Acute otitis media in children: Prevention of recurrence".)


Middle ear effusion — Middle ear effusion (MEE) refers to fluid in the middle ear cavity. MEE occurs in both otitis media with effusion and AOM.

Acute otitis media — AOM refers to acute infection of middle ear fluid. (See "Acute otitis media in children: Epidemiology, microbiology, clinical manifestations, and complications", section on 'Definition'.)

Otitis media with effusion — Otitis media with effusion (OME) refers to middle ear fluid that is not infected. OME is also called serous, secretory, or nonsuppurative otitis media. OME frequently precedes the development of AOM or follows its resolution. (See "Otitis media with effusion (serous otitis media) in children: Clinical features and diagnosis", section on 'Clinical features'.)

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 13, 2017.
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