There’s no advantage of early surgery to treat preschool children with otitis media with effusion (OTE), or glue ear.
Researchers at the University of Bristol discovered that there were long term advantages, in terms of speech and language development, for children with OTE who underwent surgery but it didn’t matter when they had the operation.
Children were randomised to receive either early surgery in six weeks’ time or watchful waiting, with the option for surgery after 18 months. After nine months, verbal comprehension in children who had the surgery was close to the norm for that age group, whereas those children waiting for surgery lagged 3.72 months behind the norm. There was also a slight delay in expressive language in the watchful waiting group, compared to those who had the surgery.
But at 18 months follow up, after 85 per cent of the watchful waiting group had the operation, all differences between the two groups disappeared. Also, children had verbal and language skills expected for their ages, regardless of whether they underwent the surgery sooner or later (Lancet, 1999; 353: 960-3).