The study investigates the ability of physicians with different levels of training to accurately identify middle ear (ME) pathology using tympanograms and tympanic membrane (TM) digital photographs. Groups of medical students, internal medicine residents, and attending and resident otolaryngologists were presented with a set of 50 matched tympanograms and photographs of TMs. The physicians were asked to differentiate between a normal and an abnormal-appearing TM. The sensitivity and specificity of diagnosis of ME pathology by physicians were compared with the gold standard, examining the ME cavity for pathology during myringotomy. The sensitivity did not vary among physicians with different levels of training; however, specificity improved with an increase in physician experience. This study establishes a baseline for accuracy of diagnosis of ME pathology using tympanograms and photographs of TMs as compared with binocular otomicroscopy and the gold standard, myringotomy. EBM rating: B-2.
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