Most parents of young children deal with ear infections at one time or another. But when ear infections become chronic or begin to interfere with your child’s hearing, doctors may suggest ear tube surgery (myringotomy). Nemours Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeons perform thousands of myringotomy procedures each year, which translates to better outcomes for the children receiving them.
Many kids between the ages of 6 months and 2 years get middle ear infections called otitis media, or OM. Although ear infections are relatively easy to treat, if a child has multiple ear infections that do not get better easily or is seems experiencing hearing loss or speech delay, ear tube surgery may be recommended.
The surgery is called a myringotomy and the ear tubes themselves are called tympanostomy tubes or PE (Pressure Equalizing) tubes. A surgeon performing a myringotomy makes a tiny opening in the child’s eardrum to provide a way to remove fluid or infection from the middle ear. Small tubes may be placed in the opening permit proper drainage and allow air into the middle ear.
Depending on the type used, the tube remains in place for about 6 months to 18 months or more. Usually, surgery to remove a tympanostomy tube isn't necessary as the tube often falls out on its own, pushed out as the eardrum heals.
At Nemours, we encourage you to share any questions or concerns you may have about the myringotomy procedure and we’ll do our best to thoroughly explain your child’s surgery. Knowing what to expect can help ease the stress and make things much easier for everyone in your family.
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Myringotomy or ear tube surgery is a very common procedure. In fact, approximately 2 million tympanostomy tubes (the medical term for ear tubes) are placed in children in the United States each year. However, even though it’s a commonly performed procedure, we realize that when it comes to your child, no surgery is routine. That’s why our Nemours surgical teams include highly trained pediatric specialists — anesthesiologists, surgeons, surgical nurse practitioners, and nurses — who understand both the physical and emotional needs of a child who is having surgery.
Nemours Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, called otolaryngologists, are board-certified ENT surgeons who are skilled in the latest surgery techniques and procedures. They will take the time to thoroughly explain your child’s procedure and answer all your questions. Knowing what to expect can help ease the stress and make things much easier for everyone in your family.
The middle ear is an air-filled cavity located behind the eardrum. The eustachian tube is a small passage leading from the middle ear to the back of the nose — and its job is to equalize the air pressure between the middle ear and the outside world.
When a child has had a cold or other respiratory infection, bacteria or viruses can enter the middle ear through the eustachian tube and cause a middle ear infection (otitis media) and a buildup of fluid or pus. Pressure from this buildup pushes on the eardrum and causes pain, and because the eardrum cannot vibrate, the child may experience a temporary decrease in hearing.
If your child has multiple ear infections that do not get better easily or has evidence of hearing loss or speech delay, this may indicate the need for ear tube surgery.
During a myringotomy, small tubes called tympanostomy tubes or PE tubes (Pressure Equalizing tubes) are placed in your child’s eardrums to ventilate the area behind the eardrum and keep the pressure equalized to atmospheric pressure in the middle ear.
Surgery, no matter how common or simple the procedure, is often frightening for kids and parents, so it’s good to know what to expect:
- Because general anesthesia is used, the surgery will be performed in a hospital or outpatient surgical suite
- A pediatric anesthesiologist will talk with you about the best types of anesthesia medicine to make sure your child is comfortable and will monitor your child throughout the procedure
- The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes
- Depending on the type used, the tympanostomy or PE tube remains in place for about 6 months to 18 months or more
- Usually, surgery to remove an ear tube isn't necessary as the tube often falls out on its own, pushed out as the eardrum heals