Impact of Early-Onset Acute Otitis Media on Multiple Recurrences and Associated Health Care Use

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Abstract

Objective

To quantify the critical age period of first episode of acute otitis media (AOM) and its consequences for AOM recurrences and AOM health care use.

Study design

Children enrolled in the Wheezing-Illnesses-STudy-LEidsche-Rijn cohort with at least 1 episode of AOM documented in their primary care health record before 2 years of age were followed until 6 years of age. Data on episodes of AOM and associated primary care consultations, antibiotic prescriptions, and specialist referrals were retrieved. Regression models assessed the presence and shape of the associations between age of first AOM and subsequent episodes of AOM and health care use.

Results

A total of 796 of 2026 children (39%) experienced a first AOM before 2 years of age. Each month decrease in age at first AOM in the first 2 years of life increased the risk of developing recurrent AOM (≥3 AOM episodes in 6 months or ≥ 4 in 1 year) linearly by 6% (adjusted risk ratio: 1.06; 95% CI: 1.02-1.10). For first AOM occurring before 9 months, the cumulative 6-year primary care consultation rate increased by 8% (adjusted incidence rate ratio: 1.08; 95% CI: 1.03-1.15) and the associated specialist referral increased by 16% (adjusted risk ratio: 1.16; 95% CI: 1.07-1.27) for each month decrease in age. No associations were found between age at first AOM and total AOM episodes or antibiotic prescriptions.

Conclusions

The association between earlier age of first AOM and recurrent AOM as well as total health care use during childhood is particularly strong before 9 months of age.

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