5-Fluorouracil Ointment for the Treatment of Otitis Media With Effusion

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Our aim was to evaluate the combined effect of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and myringotomy for the treatment of otitis media with effusion (OME). OME is usually treated with medication, myringotomy, or insertion of a ventilation tube (VT). Except for VT insertion, however, treatment effects are short-lived. VT insertion has numerous sequelae: increased susceptibility to infection, large perforation of the tympanic membrane, cholesteatoma, and eventual hearing deterioration. We estimated the depressant action of 5-FU on normal cell proliferation in vitro. In addition, clinically, we assessed whether 5-FU has the potential to prolong the effect of myringotomy.

Study Design:

An in vitro study and a clinical study were conducted.

Materials and Methods:

In study I, fibroblasts harvested from the peritoneum of three green fluorescent protein transgenic mice were cultured with different doses of 5-FU. After 2 weeks, their proliferation rates were compared. In study II, patients (54 males, 47 females) were selected randomly from a group of patients with intractable OME. Myringotomy with or without a single dose of 5-FU ointment (approximately 0.10–0.30 mg) was performed in group I (n = 64) and group II (n = 37), respectively. The natural closure rates of the tympanic membrane were assessed in both groups.


In vitro, 5-FU inhibited the growth of fibroblasts in a dose-dependent manner. The average time to tympanic membrane closure was 20.5 days in group I and 8.1 days in group II. No adverse events were observed in either group.


Topical application of 5-FU ointment is useful in prolonging the effect of myringotomy. 5-FU ointment therapy is easy, safe, and cost-effective and may be of wide application.

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