Otitis media (OM) is the most common illness in children in the United States. Three-fourths of children under the age of three have OM at least once. Children with chronic OM, including OM with effusion and recurrent OM, will often have conductive hearing loss and communication difficulties, and need surgical treatment. Recent clinical studies provide evidence that almost all chronic OM cases are accompanied by a bacterial biofilm behind the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and within the middle ear. Biofilms are typically very thin, and cannot be recognized using a regular otoscope. Here we demonstrate how optical low coherence interferometry (LCI) noninvasively depth-ranges into the middle ear to detect and quantify biofilm microstructure. A portable diagnostic system integrating LCI with a standard video otoscope was constructed and used to detect and quantify the presence of biofilms in a newly-developed pre-clinical animal model for this condition. Using a novel classification algorithm for acquired LCI data, the system identified the presence of a biofilm with 86% sensitivity and 90% specificity, compared to histological findings. This new information on the presence of a biofilm, its structure, and its response to antibiotic treatment, will not only provide better understanding of fundamental principles that govern biofilm formation, growth, and eradication, but may also provide much needed clinical data to direct and monitor protocols for the successful management of otitis media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1116
Number of pages13
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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