A visual analog scale can assess the effect of surgical treatment in children with chronic otitis media with effusion
Background: The OM-6 survey is a validated and multinationally accepted instrument to measure the treatment effect of otitis media in children. Routine use of the OM-6 in a busy general practice is not always possible and can lead to incomplete returned surveys. A simplified method is favoured when the aim is a continuous process of complete treatment-outcome-data collection. This study tests if a VAS can quantify how much a child suffers from chronic otitis media and how much this changes due to surgical treatment. The change in overall OM-6 scores due to surgical treatment, functions as the gold reference standard. Furthermore, this study tests if the VAS is faster to use than the OM-6 and if it leads to an improvement in complete data collection. Methods: Prospective cohort follow-up study of 175 consecutive children with chronic otitis media in a paediatric otolaryngology practice in a metropolitan area. Data collected included patient's age, gender, clinical presentation, type of surgical procedure performed, overall OM-6 score and VAS score (at initial presentation and at follow-up), time needed to complete an OM-6 survey and VAS separately and number of incorrect OM-6 surveys and VAS questions returned. Results: The VAS scores and overall OM-6 scores show a good, positive correlation at baseline (Spearman's ρ = 0.71). This correlation improves at follow-up, one and 6 months after intervention (ρ = 0.73 and ρ = 0.80, respectively). The change in VAS scores and overall OM-6 scores, interpreted as change due to surgical intervention, show a good positive correlation at follow-up (ρ = 0.70 and ρ = 0.77, respectively). The VAS is almost three times faster than the OM-6 (28 s versus 81 s). More than 13% of OM-6 surveys were returned incomplete. All VAS questions were returned correct. Conclusions: The VAS can be used as a simplified method for routine surgical treatment effect analysis in children with chronic otitis media.