John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The following information is provided to help you understand more clearly the associated benefits, risks, and complications of ear tube surgery. Ask your doctor any questions that you feel necessary to help you better understand the procedure.
What is the purpose for ear tubes?
Middle ear infections (otitis media) are common in children. When a child has repeated ear infections or fluid build-up in the ears that do not go away easily or that cause hearing problems or speech delays, a doctor may recommend surgery to insert an ear tube to allow the eardrum to equalize the pressure.
The surgery, called a myringotomy, is a tiny incision in the eardrum. Any fluid, usually thickened secretions will be removed. In most situations, a small plastic tube (a tympanostomy tube) is inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear aerated for a prolonged period of time. These ventilating tubes remain in place for six months to several years. Eventually, they will move out of the eardrum (extrude) and fall into the ear canal. Your doctor may remove the tube during a routine office visit or it may simply fall out of the ear.
Less common conditions that may call for the placement of ear tubes are malformation of the ear drum or
Eustachian tube, Down's
syndrome, cleft palate, and barotrauma (middle ear injury caused by a reduction of air pressure), according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
What are risks and complications of ear tubes?
While ear tube surgery is common, minor complications can occur in up to half of the children who have them inserted. Complications include:
Failure to resolve the ear infections.
Thickening of the eardrum over time, which affects hearing in a small percentage of patients.
Persistent perforation after the tube falls out
of the eardrum.
Chronic ear drainage.
Need for further and more aggressive surgery
such as tonsil,
sinus, or ear surgery.
A child with undetected hearing loss may not be able to develop normal speech
and language or acquire the cognitive abilities (knowing, thinking, and judging)
needed for learning. Children whose hearing"...