Tags: diagnosis | ear | infect | device

Device Diagnoses Ear Infections

Thursday, 31 May 2012 12:44 PM


Chronic ear infections are among the most common childhood conditions, but determining if they can be treated with antibiotics is difficult to do. Now, a new device, developed by University of Illinois engineers, gives doctors a peek behind the eardrum to better diagnose and treat them.
The invention of the new medical imaging device, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could usher in a new breed of non-invasive, 3-D diagnostic imaging tools for primary-care physicians.
Researchers, led by University of engineering professor Stephen Boppart, noted chronic ear infections can damage hearing and often require surgery to place drainage tubes in the eardrum. Patients with ear infections may have a film of bacteria or other microorganisms that builds up behind the eardrum. Identifying these so-called biofilms is key to treating ear infections, but standard scopes doctor use can reveal only the eardrum's surface, not the bacteria-seeded biofilm lurking behind it
"We know that antibiotics don't always work well if you have a biofilm, because the bacteria protect themselves and become resistant," Boppart said. "In the presence of a chronic ear infection that has a biofilm, the bacteria may not respond to the usual antibiotics, and you need to stop them. But without being able to detect the biofilm, we have no idea whether or not it's responding to treatment."
The new device uses beams of light to collect high-resolution, 3-D images of the eardrum and any biofilms behind it – much like ultrasound imaging, he said.
Researchers worked with clinicians at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana to test the device on patients with ear infections. It identified biofilms in all patients with chronic infections.
The team is working to make its device – now a hand-held prototype – more compact, easy to use and low-cost. The device company Welch Allyn is a collaborator on the project, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


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New imaging technology gives doctors a peek behind the eardrum to diagnose and treat infections.
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Thursday, 31 May 2012 12:44 PM
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