Cancer Screening

April 2009

Acute otitis externa

Management by GPs in North Queensland

Volume 38, No.4, April 2009 Pages 262-266

Acute otitis externaTracy Cheffins MBBS, MPH, FAFPHM, FRACGP, is Medical Coordinator, North Queensland Practice Based Research Network, School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland

Clare Heal MBChB, DRANZCOG, DipGUMed, FRACGP, MPH&TM, PhD, is Associate Professor, General Practice and Rural Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Mackay, Queensland.

Steven Rudolphy MBBS, FRACGP, is Senior Lecturer, James Cook University Cairns Base Hospital Campus – General Practice, and a general practitioner, Mt Sheridan, Queensland

Rebecca Evans BSpExSci(Hons), GCertGovernancePolicyPublic Affairs, is Research Officer, James Cook University – School of Medicine and Dentistry, Townsville, Queensland.

Craig Veitch PhD, BA(Hons), DipAppSc, is Professor, Community Based Healthcare, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, New South Wales.

Background

Acute otitis externa (AOE) is a common condition in North Queensland. Clinical guidelines exist for the management of this condition. This study explores the pattern of causative pathogens and management of AOE by general practitioners in North Queensland.

Methods

Eight general practices in three regional cities of North Queensland participated in the study. The three components were: a retrospective case audit of AOE management, a survey of GPs’ self reported usual management, and collection of clinical data and microbiological specimens from new cases.

Results

Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the most common causative pathogen in all regions, GPs correctly identified the most common pathogens, there was variation in the use of oral antibiotics between regions (15.8–36.6%), ear syringing is commonly used in managing AOE (51.3%), and most patients (68.9%) required only one GP appointment.

Discussion

General practitioners have good knowledge of the causative pathogens for AOE in their region. While clinical guidelines are generally followed, there is some variation in the prescription of oral antibiotics and use of ear syringing in managing this condition.

Acute otitis externa (AOE) is a common ear condition seen in the primary health care setting. Also known as ‘swimmer’s ear’ or ‘tropical ear’, it is prevalent in hot humid climates such as North Queensland where swimming is a common activity.1 There is limited research relating to the range of pathogens that cause this condition, or its management in primary care settings in tropical North Queensland.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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