(Tympanostomy; Tympanotomy; Ear Tubes Surgery)
DefinitionA myringotomy is a procedure to put a hole in the eardrum. This is done so that fluid or infection trapped in the middle ear can drain out. The fluid may be blood, pus, and/or water. In many cases, a small tube is inserted into the hole in the eardrum. The tube helps to maintain drainage.
Reasons for ProcedureA myringotomy may be done:
- To restore hearing loss caused by chronic fluid build-up and to prevent delayed speech development caused by hearing loss in children.
- To place tympanostomy tubes—these tubes help to equalize pressure. It may also help prevent recurrent ear infections and the accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum.
- To help treat an ear infection that is not responding to medical treatment.
- To take sample fluid from the middle ear to examine in the lab for the presence of bacteria or other infections.
Possible ComplicationsProblems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Chronic scarring
- Failure of the myringotomy incision in the eardrum to heal as expected, which may result in frequent drainage
- Hearing loss
- Injury to ear structures other than the eardrum
- Need for repeat surgery
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureYour doctor will likely do the following:
- Blood tests
- Hearing test
- Tympanogram—a test that measures how well the eardrum responds to changes in pressure
- Examine the external ear and the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure
- Do not eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the procedure
AnesthesiaGeneral anesthesia is most often used. You will be asleep. In some cases, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the ear.
Description of ProcedureA small microscope is placed in position to give the doctor a better view. A tiny incision will be made in the eardrum. Fluid from the middle ear will then be drained. In most cases, a small tube will be inserted and left in place. This will allow the drainage to continue.No stitches will be used to close the incision. The incision will heal itself. The procedure is often done on both ears. Some doctors may use a laser beam to make the opening in the eardrum.
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How Long Will It Take?The surgery will last about 15–20 minutes.
Will It Hurt?Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. Lidocaine ear drops may also be given to decrease pain.
Postoperative CareHome care may include:
- Replacing cotton in the ear canal used to absorb postsurgical drainage.
- Using ear drops a few times a day.
- Monitoring your ear for drainage if water gets inside your ear.
- Using ear plugs while swimming or bathing.
- Avoiding underwater swimming and diving until further notice.
- Not cleaning your ear after surgery or placing anything other than ear drops, cotton, or ear plugs into your ear.