Benefits of a bulb syringe to remove earwax

Self-irrigation using a bulb syringe is routine care in United Kingdom family practice clinics.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham, in the UK, studied the impact of this procedure on healthcare costs.

First, the details.

  • 237 patients attending 7 UK family practice clinics with symptomatic, occluding earwax who were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
    • Ear drops, bulb syringe, instructions on its use and re-use
    • Control group (ear drops, then clinic irrigation).
  • After 2 years, a retrospective review of earwax-related consultations was carried out.
  • The researchers were not aware of the treatment given — single blind

And, the results.

  • Significantly more control group patients returned with episodes of earwax (73% control vs 60% treatment group).
  • The numbers of consultations amounted to 1.2 (control) vs 0.64 (treatment group) — a significant difference.
  • A savings of 1 consultation on average for every 2 people.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “For patients who have not already tried bulb syringes, self-irrigation using a bulb syringe significantly reduces subsequent demand for ear irrigation by health professionals. Advocating the initial use of bulb syringes could reduce demand for ear irrigation in family practice clinics.”

The authors also tell us, “Although irrigation in general can result in perforation of the tympanic membrane, this refers to the us of manual syringes or oral jet irrigators that operate at higher pressures than current ear irrigators and do not refer to bulb syringes.” A recent review of adverse events concluded that irrigation with bulb syringes appeared to be reasonably safe.

3/16/11 21:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.