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GPs urged to use topical antibiotics for otitis externa

Topical antibiotics should be the first-line choice for acute otitis externa, say UK researchers who found the majority were given oral medication in primary care.

Researchers analysed data on 106 patients who were referred to an ENT emergency clinic with otitis externa.

Topical antibiotics are associated with a decrease in disease persistence, while oral antibiotics were associated with an increase – but, only 14% of patients were given topical antibiotics as an initial treatment by their GP, prior to referral, while 44% received oral antibiotics either alone or with topical antibiotics.

The authors said oral antibiotics should be reserved for patients with complicated acute otitis externa or high-risk patients, such as those with diabetes.

Study lead Dr Lakh Pabla, ENT consultant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, said: ‘We suggest the implementation of national guidelines to aid clinical practice.'

European Archives of Otorhinolaryngology2011; 269: 753-56

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