Classification of Otitis Media

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To review the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) system of classifying otitis media. To highlight the failings of this system and to propose an alternative (Read version 3).

Study Design:

An historical review of the literature and a presentation of two distinct classification schemes.


The advantages and disadvantages of the alternative schemes are analyzed and an algorithm for the classification of otitis media is presented that describes the decisions taken to reach a diagnosis.


The proposed classification of otitis media as used in the Read Codes thesaurus is more logical than the ICD classification.


The widely used ICD schema of otitis media fails to provide the otologist or general medical practitioner with a logically organized set of terms to describe inflammatory middle ear disease. This article proposes a simple, hierarchical classification that can be used by specialists, generalists and epidemiologists alike.

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