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Chronic Ear Infections: Myringotomy and Tympanostomy

​​​Ear infections have caused many a sleepless night for parents and their children. What parent hasn't made a middle-of-the-night trip to the 24-hour drug store for an over-the-counter remedy so that they can soothe their child until they can get them into the doctor the next day? If the ear infections become chronic, your Boys Town pediatrician may recommend referral to an ENT surgeon to consider myringotomy (incision in the ear drum) and the placement of a tympanostomy tube (ear tube) for your child. 

The myringotomy and tympanostomy tube placement clear fluid from the middle ear. This will help with hearing loss related to having fluid behind the ear drum. This may help prevent speech delay due to hearing impairment.

What are Myringotomy and Tympanostomy

Myringotomy involves making a small incision in the eardrum. This can be a stand-alone procedure that simply relieves pressure and drains middle ear fluid or pus although, in children, most commonly a tympanostomy tube (ear tube) is placed at the same time. 

How are the Procedures Performed?

Both procedures are most often done as outpatient surgery.  Your child would go home the same day.  Children will require general anesthesia.  Adults may have the procedure performed in clinic with local anesthesia (numbing medicine on the ear drum).

Ear tube placement is a routine procedure.  The ENT surgeon uses an operative microscope to visualize the ear drum. The surgeon makes an incision in the lower portion of the eardrum.  The fluid or pus is suctioned out and rinsed out.  The tube is then placed in the incision.  The procedure only takes about 10 minutes.

Recovery and Prognosis

Recovery is quick. Your child may experience minor pain or discomfort. This shouldn't last more than a day or two. Your doctor may prescribe something for pain, antibiotics, decongestants or nasal sprays. 

If tympanostomy tubes are placed in the ears, your child won't be able to scuba dive or swim under deep water. They can, however, swim on the surface. In about nine months to two years, the tubes will fall out of the tympanic membrane. The incision will heal on its own. ​​

Hearing;Health Ear, Nose and Throat