Developing otitis media : experimental studies in particular regarding inflammatory changes in the tympanic membrane

Abstract: Otitis media (OM), one of the commonest of childhood diseases, causes much suffering. OM exists in a variety of forms, two of which are acute otitis media (AOM) and otitis media with effusion (OME). The clinical courses of these conditions differ, AOM usually presenting with earache, fever and/or aural discharge, and the OME usually with hearing impairment. The tympanic membrane (TM) mirrors the events in the middle ear cavity, and pars flaccida (PF) is the initial site of inflammatory changes in the TM. PF is rich in mast cells (MCs), which by releasing various mediators, may trigger TM inflammation. The aims of the present studies were to investigate early inflammatory changes in the TM in rat models of OM; after mast cell degranulation, in response to AOM, and OME, after myringotomy in AOM and in normal ears. Furthermore, we developed a new rat AOM model, that excludes surgical trauma and resembles the natural route of infection in man. AOM and OME elicited the first inflammatory response in PF of the TM. The response to OME was discrete, but a slight increase in macrophages was found. During the first 48 hours of AOM, the inflammatory response was intense, following a bimodal pattern. This reaction is similar to that found after MC degranulation. In AOM, macrophages were the predominant cell in PF, while in pars tensa (PT), polymorphonuclear cells (mainly neutrophils) predominated. When myringotomy was performed in AOM ears, the healing time was shorter than that of myringotomy in normal ears. The highly inflamed lamina propria seemed to promote healing. During early AOM, as well as following myringotomy, fibrin extravasates into PF and PT. This fibrin deposition may be involved in regulating the inflammatory response. Repeated nasal challenge with the otitis media pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae provoked AOM and concomitant TM stimulation reduced the number of AOM cases. This new rat AOM model has the advantage of avoiding trauma in the middle ear cavity, while eliciting an intense inflammatory response in the middle ear cavity (MEC).