The treatment of patients with tympanostomy tubes (TTs) and otorrhea with medicated otic suspensions is well known, but confirmation of penetration into the middle ear is difficult. To address this question, we created an in vitro model of the human head and ear and then tested it with 5 different types of liquid exposure: tap water, soapy water, polymyxin B sulfate (Cortisporin), tobramycin and dexamethasone (TobraDex), and ciprofloxacin (Cipro) suspensions. A positive test result corresponded to liquids entering the middle ear through the TT. No positive test result was elicited with tap water (0/20), but soapy water did enter the middle ear (10/40) and was statistically significant (P = 0.0112). Without the use of slight tragal pressure, Cortisporin, TobraDex, and Cipro drops did not consistently pass through the TT (0/20, 1/25, 1/25). By placing the drops with the addition of tragal pressure, a statistically significant difference was obtained for each solution (20/20, 20/20, and 20/20, respectively [P < 0.0001]). We conclude that with a clean external auditory canal, patent TT, and no middle ear fluid, medicated otic suspensions enter the middle ear only when combined with slight tragal pressure.
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