What is ear tube surgery?
Children can get middle ear infections (otitis media) when they have a cold or other respiratory infection. Recurrent ear infections (recurrent acute otitis media) and/or persistent fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion) may become a chronic problem leading to other issues such as hearing loss, poor school performance, or behavior and speech problems. When this occurs, ear tube surgery, which is an insertion of ear tubes by an ENT doctor, may be considered. During this procedure, your child's ENT doctor will create a small hole in the eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane) to allow fluids to drain out and to permit air to enter the ear to help drainage and healing. This first step is also called a myringotomy.
The ENT doctor will then place the ear tubes, which are tiny cylinders, through the eardrum hole to maintain the opening and allow air into the middle ear. Ear tubes may also be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or Pressure Equalization (PE) tubes.
Ear tubes may reduce the risk of future ear infection, restore hearing loss caused by fluid in the ear, improve speech and balance problems, and improve behavior problems related to ear infections.1
Traditionally, ear tube surgery is performed in an operating room while your child is under general anesthesia. After the surgical team has inserted the tubes, you are re-united with your child in the recovery area. Each year in the US, approximately 700,000 ear tube surgeries are performed on children in an operating room, making it the most common childhood surgery performed with general anesthesia.2
- Rosenfield RM, Schwartz SR, Pynnonen MA, et. al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Tympanostomy Tubes in Children. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 149(1S); S1-S35, 2013. Guideline from the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery.
- Hall MJ, Schwartzman A, Zhang J, Liu X. Ambulatory Surgery Data from Hospitals and Ambulatory Surgery Centers: United States, 2010. National health statistics reports 102; 2-14, 2017.
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