Read on to learn more about myringotomy and tympanostomy tubes.
Ear tubes are inserted during surgery when a child has repeated middle ear infections or fluid build-up in the ears that does not go away easily or that causes hearing problems or speech delays.
The tubes can also be inserted because of Down’s syndrome, middle ear injury caused by a reduction of air pressure called barotraumas, malformation of the ear drum or Eustachian tube and cleft palate. This is called a myringotomy.
Surgery is performed as an outpatient. Before the procedure, an anesthesiologist will review the medical history of the child. Also, the doctor will talk to the child and explain the upcoming procedure if the child is old enough to understand. Prior to surgery, the child must not eat or drink and this includes even water or chewing gum 6 to 12 hours.
On the day of the surgery, the child will be given a medication to help him/her relax. The procedure usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.
During surgery, the anesthesiologist will usually use a mixture of gas and an intravenous medication for sedation. Then a surgeon will make a tiny incision in the eardrum through the outer ear canal using an operating microscope.
Any fluid is removed and a small plastic tube (a tympanostomy tube) is inserted. These tubes can remain in the ear for 6 to 18 months and after some time will fall out of the eardrum on their own as and the small hole in the eardrum at the old tube site usually will heal within several weeks.
After the procedure, the child will be taken to the recovery room and a parent can stay with the child until they recover from the anesthetic. Then, the child can go home and it is best to feed the child slowly to prevent nausea and vomiting from the anesthetic.
The parent must use 3 times per day 3-4 drops of cortisporin ear drops after surgery until a doctor prescribes. It is not unusual that yellow clear fluid drain from child’s ear during few days after the procedure so the cotton can be placed in the ear canal and changed to keep dry. Parent must inform the doctor if drainage continues after three days.
The doctors recommend that child wear ear plugs during washing hair, bathing, and swimming to prevent water from entering the ear canal because there is a passage into the middle ear to allow for ventilation so infection may occur.
A follow-up ear check-up will be scheduled in 10 to 14 days after the procedure and after every six months until tube falls out.
Minor complications after ear tubes are inserted can occur like chronic ear drainage, infection, failure to resolve the ear infections, hearing loss and allergic reaction to the tube material but this is very rare.