The possibility that immune complexes cause otitis media with effusion (OME) has been previously proposed. In order to test this hypothesis we developed an animal model in which immune complexes were injected into the middle ears of chinchillas and the animals killed at various time intervals thereafter. Moderate inflammatory changes were seen in animals killed four hours postinjection, whereas intense inflammation was observed in those killed at 24 hours. Inflammatory changes observed included capillary dilatation with increased capillary permeability, migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes into the sub-mucosa, hemorrhage, and damage to and actual disruption of the subepithelial basement membrane. These changes are consistent with a complement-mediated acute inflammatory reaction. Although no definite conclusion can be made concerning the etiologic role of immune complex in OME, our findings show that immune complexes can cause acute inflammatory changes in the middle ear of the experimental animal.
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