Cancer Screening

April 2009


Acute otitis externa

Management by GPs in North Queensland

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

Tracy Cheffins

Clare Heal

Steven Rudolphy

Rebecca Evans

Craig Veitch


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.


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.


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.


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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