Athens Regional Health System

Ear Tube Surgery

Myringotomy is a surgical process where small incisions are made in a patient's eardrum to remove fluid buildup, a common cause of ear infections, especially in young people.  As many as a half-million myringotomy surgeries are performed on children each year.
While ear infections can seem like painful nuisances, chronic fluid in the ears can pave the way for more serious problems, including hearing loss and balance challenges.
The outpatient surgery, which generally takes about 15 minutes, consists of placing small tubes (also known as tympanostomy tubes) in the eardrum incisions that suck out the offending fluids. These tubes are recommended when dealing with hearing loss or repeated middle-ear infections.
Ear tubes are made of plastic, Teflon or metal. Air is able to flow in through the tubes while liquids flow out. Tubes usually remain in the ear between 6 and 18 months, at which time they generally fall out on their own.
In preparation for the procedure, patients are advised not to eat or drink for six hours before surgery. Patients are given a general anesthesia, although some adults may be able to have the surgery without anesthesia.

The doctor makes a small cut in the eardrum from the outer ear canal. Fluid is removed from the ear and a tube is then inserted. Recovery from the surgery often takes less than an hour, but patients are cautioned that they must have someone drive them home. The incisions in the ears also usually heal on their own, so no stitches are required.
It's not uncommon for ear drainage (which consists of a yellow fluid or mucous, or even some blood) to occur in the days after the surgery, and patients are cautioned that water should not enter the ears while the tubes are in place. Ear plugs and other devices are advised for bathing or swimming.
Myringotomy is a simple, common procedure but isn't without its post-surgical complications, which can include hearing loss, continued ear infections, eardrum scarring and/or perforation, or an allergic reaction to the material makeup of the ear tube. And it's not at all unusual for patients to have this surgical procedure more than once in their lifetimes.

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