Otitis media is currently the most common diagnosis made by clinicians, and its prevalence has an impact on managed health care. With the emergence of bacterial pathogens resistant to many antimicrobial agents, an urgent need exists to reassess the indications for surgical management of this more prevalent disease. In an effort to determine the causative bacterial etiology of acute otitis media, which may be resistant to commonly prescribed antimicrobial agents, tympanocentesis is indicated today more than ever, especially when patients fail to improve or worsen while receiving antibiotics (i.e. treatment failures). In an effort to reduce the use of antimicrobial agents, prophylactic administration of these drugs for prevention of recurrent otitis media should only be prescribed on an individualized basis, with myringotomy and tympanostomy tube insertion being a more reasonable alternative. Adenoidectomy should be also considered when moderate to severe nasal obstruction is present or when repeat tympanostomy tube placement is needed. Likewise when chronic otitis media with effusion is unresponsive to a trial of antimicrobial therapy, tympanostomy tube insertion, adenoidectomy or both procedures should be considered, as opposed to re-treating with a variety of antibiotics. The role of these surgical procedures has become more important today in this era of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Also in our cost-conscious environment, it is uncertain which method of management is more expensive, surgery or prolonged medical management.