Tympanostomy Tubes

Although ear tube surgery is a relatively common procedure, surgery is not the first choice of treatment for middle ear infections. Antibiotics are usually the first course of treatment for bacterial ear infections. In many cases, acute ear infections may resolve without treatment of any kind. Ear infections can often be treated with pain relief only for the first 48-72 hrs. Many ear infections are viral and antibiotics do not help. After this time if the symptoms continue antibiotics will be necessary. If your child’s ear infections recur frequently, or if the fluid does not drain  your child may have a hearing loss which can result in learning difficulty and possible speech delay, Dr. Harriman may suggest surgery to drain fluid from the middle ear and insert a ventilation tube. Because at a young age both ears generally have same issues, surgery is typically performed in both ears.

A tiny tube, also called a tympanostomy tube, is inserted into the eardrum. It is designed to ventilate as well as equalize pressure in the middle ear. This will help prevent infection and the accumulation of fluid. Hearing can then be normalized. The tube does not impair hearing. It remains in place for about 6 to 18 months or more and usually extrudes on its own. Tympanostomy tubes greatly reduce the occurrence of further ear infections.

Steps during Surgery

Your child will receive general anesthesia. This means the surgery will be performed in a hospital so that an anesthesiologist can monitor your child. The procedure generally takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Dr. Harriman will make a small hole in the eardrum and remove fluid from the middle ear using suction. Because Dr. Harriman can reach the eardrum through the ear canal, there is no visible incision. Inserting a small  plastic tube into the hole in the eardrum finishes the procedure.

After Surgery

After surgery, your child will wake up in the recovery area.  There may be some mild  bleeding or discharge from the ear.  The total time spent in the hospital is a few hours.  Very young children or those with additional medical problems may stay for a longer period of time.

Substance such as water may sometimes enter the middle ear through the tube. This is generally not a problem in a shower or non submerged bath. There are some times that Dr. Harriman will recommend ear plugs. and  this will be discussed. In most cases, surgery to remove a tympanostomy tube is unnecessary. The tube usually falls out on its own, pushed out as the eardrum heals. A tube generally stays in the ear anywhere from 6 to 18 months, depending on the type of tube used. If the tube remains in the eardrum beyond 2 or 3 years, it will likely need to be surgically removed in order prevent a perforation in the eardrum or accumulation of debris around the tube.