- The patient must sit still during the procedure. During the examination of a child, the parent must hold the child on their lap.
- The doctor gently pulls the ear backward and upward to straighten the ear canal and get a better view of the eardrum.
- The tip of an otoscope is then inserted into the ear canal, ensuring that a strong seal is made with the canal.
- The ear canal and eardrum are checked and cerumen (excess earwax), if any, is removed.
- The eardrum is assessed for color, translucency, and position. A normal ear canal is convex, translucent, and intact. The bulb on the otoscope is squeezed and released alternately create positive and negative pressure on the eardrum and assess its mobility.
- Absence of eardrum mobility on the application of slight positive and negative pressure indicates an infection.
This procedure may cause a temporary hole in the eardrum that would heal spontaneously.
What is a pneumatic otoscopy?
Pneumatic otoscopy is an ear examination that assesses eardrum movement in response to pressure changes. A healthy eardrum moves in response to pressure. Immobility may be due to:
- Fluid in the ear
- Perforation (hole)
- Tympanosclerosis (scarring of the eardrum)
- Middle ear infections
Advantages of a pneumatic otoscopy include:
- High sensitivity and specificity to identify a middle ear infection
- Better than other ear examination methods
- Cheaper than other methods
- Easy to perform with appropriate training
- Quick and painless tests
- Otoscopes are widely available
A pneumatic otoscopy provides a useful means to examine diseases in the middle ear.
- Our ear has three parts. Each part has an important function:
- The outer ear (pinna and ear canal) gathers and directs sound, causing the eardrum to vibrate.
- The middle ear (tympanic membrane, ossicles, mastoid, and eustachian tube) augments and passes the vibrations to the inner ear.
- The inner ear (cochlea) transforms the vibration into electrical signals and drives them to the brain.
For a pneumatic otoscopy, you require the following:
- Pneumatic otoscopes: These are instruments used to visualize the ear canal and eardrums. Otoscopes must be fully charged with a bright bulb.
- Ear specula: These are funnel-shaped pieces of plastic attached to an otoscope. An ear speculum is inserted into the ear canal.
- Insufflator bulbs: These are attached tightly to the head of an otoscope by means of a tube.
When is a pneumatic otoscopy indicated?
A pneumatic otoscopy is useful to diagnose the following conditions:
- Acute otitis media (a painful type of ear infection)
- Otitis media with effusion (collection of thick fluid behind the eardrum)
- Tympanic membrane retraction (retraction of the eardrum)
- Hennebert’s sign or fistula test (a test done to identify the root cause of repeated vertigo)
- Brown’s sign (a test done to reveal a reddish-bluish pulsatile mass behind the eardrum)
What are the complications of a pneumatic otoscopy?
You might experience slight discomfort during the procedure. Some of the less common complications of pneumatic otoscopy include:
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