Health Topics

Ear Tube Surgery

Treatment for Chronic Ear Infections
By DuPage Medical Group Otolaryngology

What does ear tube surgery entail?

Placement of ear tubes in children is often performed at the hospital or at The Surgical Center of DuPage Medical Group. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia that is administered by a mask. In most cases, no IV is required. Procedure length is variable, but often lasts about 15 minutes. Minimal bleeding from the ears can be expected. Once the child has awakened from anesthesia, is able to drink, and parents are comfortable, everyone can go home. Immediate recovery from anesthesia can last about an hour.

What are the types of ear tube surgery:

A tympanostomy tube helps prevent recurring ear infections by allowing air into the middle ear. Other substances, including water, may sometimes enter through the tube, but this is rarely a problem. Your surgeon may or may not recommend earplugs for regular bathing or swimming. 

Myringotomy tubes are small tubes that are surgically placed into your child's eardrum by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon. The tubes are placed to help drain the fluid out of the middle ear in order to reduce the risk of ear infections. Myringotomies are frequently used to treat glue ear and recurring ear infections that do not respond to antibiotics.

In an operation called a stapedectomy, a surgeon (otolaryngologist or otologist) bypasses the diseased bone with a prosthetic device that allows sound waves to be passed to the inner ear.

Stapedotomy Laser stapedotomy is a well-established surgical technique for treating conductive hearing loss due to otosclerosis. The procedure creates a tiny opening in the stapes (the smallest bone in the human body) in which to secure a prosthetic. The CO2 laser allows the surgeon to create very small, precisely placed holes without increasing the temperature of the inner ear fluid by more than one degree, making this an extremely safe surgical solution. The hole diameter can be predetermined according to the prosthesis diameter. Treatment can be completed in a single office visit using anesthesia.

BAHA Implant
The Baha is a surgically implantable system for treatment of hearing loss that works through direct bone conduction. Baha is used to help people with chronic ear infections, congenital external auditory canal atresia and single sided deafness who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids. The system is surgically implanted and allows sound to be conducted through the bone rather than via the middle ear - a process known as direct bone conduction.

What is expected after surgery?

There may be temporary drainage from the ears, as the infection drains.  Eardrops, if necessary, will be prescribed to eliminate infection.

Is there any permanent damage from the tubes?

Generally, eardrums heal without any problems.  If PE tubes are left in for more than 2-3 years, permanent perforations can occur.  Routine follow-ups are necessary to ensure that tubes do not stay in longer than necessary.

What can happen if tubes are not placed?

Ear infections left untreated can often be more damaging than any surgery. Complications can occur, resulting in speech and language delay, rupturing of the eardrum, scarring from too many ear infections and occasionally, hearing loss, which may be permanent.

Is there any role for removing the adenoids?

Adenoidectomy has been shown to eliminate the need for repeated PE tubes. This is usually recommended only if a second set of PE tubes are needed or if the adenoids are enlarged.

Are there any other alternatives other than surgery?

Usually when surgery is recommended, there is no further indication for more antibiotics.  To our knowledge, no alternative medicine has been proven to cure chronic otitis media (ear infections).  A second medical opinion, however, is always an option.

For more information on ear tubes surgery, schedule a consultation with an Otolaryngologist (ENT). 


Topics and Subtopics: Ear, Nose, & Throat

Learn more about:
Otolaryngology (ENT)
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