Ear Tubes (cont.)

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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, adenoid, sinus, or ear surgery.
  • Infection
  • Hearing loss
  • Scarring of the eardrum
  • 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)

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 1/31/2014

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