Exogenous surfactant can improve eustachian tube function in experimentally induced otitis media with effusion (OME). Performing tympanometric recordings, the efficacy of inhaled nebulized surfactant, as compared with inhaled nebulized physiological saline was investigated, for the treatment of OME experimentally induced in the rabbit by intrabullar inoculation of heat-killed Streptococcus pneumoniae. In addition, the histological changes in middle ears after the treatment were investigated in order to establish whether the pathological findings correlated with the results.
Middle-ear pressure values before, and after, treatment were analyzed by the Wilcoxon statistical method, and the Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the post-treatment values between groups. In all ears with OME in the affected animals, which were treated with nebulized surfactant inhalation, a positively significant (p<0.05) increase of pressure more than 20 daPa was recorded. In the control group, after inhalation of nebulized physiological saline, there was no positive increase in the affected middle-ear pressures; on the contrary, more negative pressure changes were recorded. In the histological evaluation, middle-ear epithelia and sub-epithelial space were normal in surfactant-treated ears with OME, whereas mucosal thickening with an oedematous sub-epithelial space containing occasional inflammatory cells and increases in connective tissue and vascularity, and effusions on the epithelial surface were present in the ears with OME in the control group. The significant improvement in the negative middle-ear pressure after nebulized surfactant treatment and the histological findings shown in our study can support the theory that surface-active agents are of importance in eustachian tube function even under pathologic conditions, such as OME.