While the bacterial origin of otitis media has been studied extensively in children, there are few data regarding adults with this disease. We undertook this study to identify the incidence, prevalence, and bacteriologic origin of purulent otitis media in adults. This was accomplished through a review of the English-language literature on adult otitis media and a retrospective review of adult patients with this disease who were hospitalized at our institution. Results of literature review indicate that Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae are the most common causes of otitis media in ambulatory adults, but this illness is uncommon, with an incidence of only 0.25%. Hospitalized patients in whom this diagnosis was established suffered a variety of serious suppurative complications such as mastoiditis, meningitis, or brain abscess. Otalgia and fever were the most common symptoms noted in this patient population. Further studies of adult otitis media need to be performed to determine bacteriologic, symptomatic, and high-risk patient groups.
(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:2301-2304)