New type of otoscope may enable parents to diagnose kids’ ear infections at home

David Kirkwood
October 30, 2013

img_home_intro_device-f892c783530b711ae1c7e2bd33cd4ea9ORLANDO, FL—A new smart phone-enabled otoscope may give parents a DIY way to diagnose ear infections in their child at home rather than having to take the youngster to the pediatrician’s office. That is the potential of the CellScope Oto, developed by CellScope, Inc., a San Francisco-based start-up.

On Monday (October 28), an abstract was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference in Orlando reporting the findings of research on the CellScope Oto. The study was designed to determine the effectiveness of a smart phone otoscope attachment and app in diagnosing acute otitis media (AOM), or ear infections, in children.

Entitled “Comparative Assessment of a Smartphone Otoscope for the Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media,” the study involved 63 young children (mean age 2.9 years) with upper respiratory symptoms who sought care at an urban emergency department (ED) during 2012.

Each child was examined with a conventional otoscope as well as with the CellScope Oto, which attaches to a smartphone to provide video of the inner ear through an app. Forty-nine of the children were diagnosed with AOM.

Diagnosis and treatment recommendations were comparable between the two devices. Independent physicians who viewed the images captured by the researchers found no difference in the diagnostic quality or in confidence ratings between the traditional and the experimental devices.

In addition, 95% of the parents whose children took part in the study said they would feel comfortable operating the attachment and app on their own.

Kathryn Rappaport, MD, the author of the study, said, “The CellScope Oto allows parents to see what the doctor sees, which helps them to better understand the child’s diagnosis and treatment.” She added that the video images provide a baseline and ongoing documentation of the child’s ear infections.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders (NIDCD), three out of four children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. Moreover, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. Very often, these visits conclude with a doctor prescribing an antibiotic or recommending watchful waiting.

If parents can do their own testing for ear infections rather than going to the doctor, that would save a great deal of time, effort, and cost for parents and physicians alike.

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