Search

If you and your pediatrician 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 specialist (ENT). 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 anesthesia, 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 in hearing.

The surgery only lasts a matter of minutes and your child will be able to go home soon after the surgery.

As with any surgery, there is a potential for complications. About 50 percent 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 percent 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.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019

Takeaways

  • Myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which tiny tubes are implanted into the child’s ear.
  • Tubes allow air to reach the middle ear and help fluid trapped behind the eardrum to drain.
  • A myringotomy is usually recommended if the child has fluid in both ears for 4-6 months and there is a significant loss in hearing.
  • Up to 30 percent of children need to have the surgery done again within five years.

References

  1. Encyclopedia of Surgery. Myringotomy and Ear Tubes.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Treating Middle Ear Fluid.

Comments

Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.

Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.