Ear Tubes (Myringotomy & Tympanostomy Tubes)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    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.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    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.

Quick GuideEar Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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.
  • Infection
  • Hearing loss
  • Scarring of the eardrum
  • Ear canal skin tissue and material getting trapped inside the eardrum (cholesteatoma)
  • Possible need to keep the ear dry and to use ear plugs
  • Foreign body reaction to the tube itself - for example, an allergic reaction to the tube material (rare)
  • While not a complication, some patients may have a need for further and more aggressive surgery such as tonsil, adenoid, sinus, or ear surgery.

What happens before surgery?

In most situations, the surgery is performed as an outpatient (no overnight stay usually required), at either the hospital or an outpatient surgery center. An anesthesiologist will monitor your child throughout the procedure. Usually, the anesthesiologist reviews the medical history before surgery. If your doctor has ordered preoperative laboratory studies, arrange to have these done several days in advance.

If your child is old enough to understand what surgery is, be honest and up front as you explain the upcoming surgery. A calming and reassuring attitude will greatly ease your child's anxiety. Most children will feel better having had the pressure relieved in their ears.

Your child must not eat or drink anything 6 to 12 hours prior to their time of surgery; this includes even water or chewing gum. Anything in the stomach increases the chances of an anesthetic complication.

If your child is sick or has a fever the day before surgery, call the office. If your child wakes up sick the day of surgery, still proceed to the surgical facility as planned. Your doctor will decide if it is safe to proceed with surgery. However, if your child has chickenpox, do not bring your child to the office or to the surgical facility.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2016

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