BACKGROUND: Autoinflation balloons are used to treat patients with otitis media with effusion to help avoid surgery. AIM: To compare the ability of party balloons and Otovent® balloons to produce sufficient pressure for a Valsalva manoeuvre. DESIGN & SETTING: We used pressure testing to determine the number of times each balloon could produce pressures sufficient for a Valsalva manoeuvre. Subsequently, we compared Otovent® balloons with spherical party balloons in a pilot clinical trial of 12 healthy adults. METHOD: Each balloon was inflated 20 times and the maximum pressure was recorded. Three balloons of each type were tested to 50 inflations to assess pressures over persistent use. RESULTS: Otovent® balloons mean inflation pressure was 93 mmHg (95% CI 89-97 mmHg) on first inflation, dropping to 83 mmHg (95% CI 80-86 mmHg) after 20 inflations. Two types of spherical party balloon required mean inflation pressures of 84 mmHg (95% CI 77-90 mmHg) and 108 mmHg (95% CI 97-119 mmHg) on first inflation, dropping to 74 mmHg (95% CI 68-81 mmHg) and 83 mmHg (95% CI 77-88 mmHg) after 20 inflations. In the pilot trial, there was no difference between the ability of Otovent® and spherical balloons (χ2=0.24, P=0.89) to produce the sensation of a Valsalva manoeuvre. CONCLUSION: Otovent® balloons can be used more than the 20 times quoted by the manufacturer. The two spherical balloons produced similar pressures to Otovent® balloons, indicating potentially the same clinical effect. The pilot study suggests a potential use of spherical party balloons instead of Otovent® balloons as a cost-efficient treatment.
Otitis media with effusion, Pediatrics, Primary health care, Valsalva maneuver