Bulb syringes for earwax decreases health service utilization

January 01, 0001

Bulb syringes for earwax decreases health service utilization

Bulb syringes can be used for the self-clearance of earwax and, in the short term, appear effective. The researchers compared the long-term effectiveness of self-irrigation using a bulb syringe with routine care in United Kingdom (UK) family practice clinics where irrigating ears to remove wax is a common procedure. They assessed the impact on health service utilization as a follow-up to a single-blind, randomized, controlled trial of 237 patients attending 7 UK family practice clinics with symptomatic, occluding earwax who were randomized to an intervention group (ear drops, bulb syringe, instructions on its use and reuse) or a control group (ear drops, then clinic irrigation). After 2 years, a retrospective notes search for earwax-related consultations was carried out.

In the 2-year trial follow-up, more control group patients returned with episodes of earwax: 73% control vs 60% intervention; risk ratio 1.21. The numbers of consultations amounted to 1.15 (control) vs 0.64 (intervention) (incidence rate ratio 1.79, significant) ie a difference of 0.50 consultations, thus saving a consultation on average for every 2 people.

The researchers concluded: "For patients who have not already tried bulb syringes, self-irrigation using a bulb syringe significantly reduces subsequent demand for ear irrigation by health professionals. Advocating the initial use of bulb syringes could reduce demand for ear irrigation in family practice clinics."

A potential cost saving to the community. Possibly also to the community as cheap versions are available.

For the full abstract, click here.

Annals of Family Medicine 9(2):110-114, February 2011
© 2011 to Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.
Trial of Bulb Syringes for Earwax: Impact on Health Service Utilization. Richard Coppin, Dorothy Wicke and Paul Little. Correspondence to Richard Coppin: [email protected]

Category: H. Ear, HSR. Health Services Research. Keywords: cerumen, adult, ear canal, family practice, therapeutic irrigation, medical records, retrospective study, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 1 April 2011

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.