If you and your paediatrician have decided that your child’s frequent ear infections need more aggressive treatment than just antibiotics and waiting for improvement, myringotomy may be the solution. Myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which tiny tubes are implanted into the child’s ear (or ears) by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. These tubes allow air to reach the middle ear and help fluid trapped behind the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, to drain. This relieves pressure and pain in the ears, often preventing future infections.
During a myringotomy, the child is placed under general anaesthesia, then the surgeon makes a tiny incision in the eardrum and suctions out any built up fluid. Ear tubes, which can be made of plastic, metal or Teflon, are then placed into the incision. The surgery only lasts a matter of minutes and your child will be able to go home soon after the surgery.
You may see some fluid draining a day or two after the surgery, but drainage any longer than this could indicate infection. Tubes usually stay in place until they fall out on their own in six to twelve months, or sometimes the doctor will choose to remove them if they stay in too long. Even though most ear infections clear up on their own, a myringotomy may be recommended if the child has fluid in both ears for four to six months and there is a significant loss of hearing.
As with any surgery, there is a potential for complications. About 50% of children who have a myringotomy end up with scarring of the eardrum, but this does not always affect long-term hearing. There is also a small chance of persistent fluid discharge from the ears, which can be cleared up with antibiotics. Up to 30% of children need to have the surgery done again within five years, and a small percentage of children end up with a permanent perforation in their eardrum. This can be repaired surgically. Be sure to discuss any concerns about this surgery or the potential complications with your doctor.
- Boston Children’s Hospital, Myringotomy (Ear Tubes).
- Encyclopedia of Surgery, Myringotomy and Ear Tubes.
- Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Myringotomy Tubes.
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