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Docusate sodium with irrigation was better than triethanolamine polypeptide with irrigation for dissolving earwax

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QUESTION: Is a single brief application of docusate sodium (Colace), with or without irrigation, more effective than triethanolamine polypeptide (Cerumenex), with or without irrigation, for clearing cerumen (earwax) in patients presenting to the emergency department?


Randomised (allocation not concealed), blinded (unclear) controlled trial.


The emergency department of a tertiary care centre in Stony Brook, New York, USA.


50 patients who were ≥1 year of age (mean age 40 y, 65% men), had a medical condition that required visualisation of the ear canal (eg, earache, hearing loss, or fever), and had cerumen partially or totally occluding the ear canal. Patients were excluded if they had known or suspected tympanic membrane perforation, overt ear infection, were uncooperative, or were allergic to either of the solvent agents. Follow up was complete.


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  • Source of funding: not stated.

  • For correspondence: Dr A J Singer, Department of Emergency Medicine, University Medical Center, L4-515, Stony Brook, NY 11794-7400, USA. Fax +1 631 444 6233.