Definition of Acute Otitis Media (AOM)

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A diagnosis of AOM requires:

  1. a history of acute onset of signs and symptoms,
  2. the presence of middle-ear effusion (MEE), and
  3. signs and symptoms of middle-ear inflammation.

Elements of the definition of AOM are all of the following:

  1. Recent, usually abrupt, onset of signs and symptoms of middle-ear inflammation and MEE

  2. The presence of MEE that is indicated by any of the following:

a. Bulging of the tympanic membrane

b. Limited or absent mobility of the tympanic membrane

c. Air-fluid level behind the tympanic membrane

d. Otorrhea

3. Signs or symptoms of middle-ear inflammation as indicated by either

a. Distinct erythema of the tympanic membrane or

b. Distinct otalgia (discomfort clearly referable to the ear[s] that results in interference with or precludes normal activity or sleep)


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Management of Acute Otitis Media. Diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 2004 May;113(5):1451-65. [Medline]

Created: Oct 29, 2007