(HealthDay News) – Pediatric acute otitis media (AOM) is associated with increased health care utilization and costs, adding approximately $2.88 billion in health care expense annually, according to a study published in the January issue of The Laryngoscope.

Sameer Ahmed, MD, from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues extracted data on pediatric cases (age <18 years) of AOM from the 2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Comparisons were made for ambulatory visit rates, prescription refills, and ambulatory health care costs for children with and without AOM.

The researchers found that, of the 81.5 million children sampled (mean age, 8.9 years; 51.3% male), approximately 8.7 million children were diagnosed with AOM (mean age, 5.3 years; 51.3% male). After adjustment for demographics and medical comorbidities, children with AOM had an additional 2.0 office visits, 0.2 emergency department visits, and 1.6 prescription fills (all P<0.001) per year compared to those without AOM. AOM correlated with a $314 increase per child in outpatient health care costs annually (P<0.001), and with a $17 increase in patient medication costs (P<0.001). There was no increase in total prescription expenses associated with AOM ($13; P=0.766).

“The diagnosis of AOM confers a significant incremental health-care utilization burden on both patients and the health care system,” the authors write. “With its high prevalence across the United States, pediatric AOM accounts for approximately $2.88 billion in added health care expense annually and is a significant health-care utilization concern.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the medical device industry.

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