The surgical placement of ear tubes is the most common childhood surgery performed, with the average age range from one to three years old. This procedure can also be used with adults.
Chronic ear infections (acute otitis media) of the middle ear or the persistent presence of fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion) can lead to other conditions such as:
- hearing loss
- balance problems
- behavioral or speech problems
To help alleviate these problems, an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat surgeon) may recommend the insertion of ear tubes.
Less common conditions that can call for ear tubes include:
- anatomical malformations of the ear drum or Eustachian tube
- Down Syndrome
- cleft palate
- injuries to the middle ear resulting from air pressure reductions sometimes caused by altitude changes and scuba diving
A tympanostomy is an outpatient surgical procedure to place ear tubes (myringotomy tubes) through the eardrums. These small cylinders are fabricated from plastic, metal, or Teflon and are inserted though a small incision in the eardrum under general anesthesia to ventilate and provide pressure equalization to the middle ear. Where fluid is present it is suctioned out. Frequently a surgical microscope or laser will be used to perform the surgery.
Typically a procedure will last less than 15 minutes. Occasionally, the otolaryngologist may also recommend the removal of the adenoids that are located behind the nose at the same time ear tube surgery is being performed. This is often considered when it is necessary to repeat tube insertions. Research supports that the removal of the adenoids together with placement of the ear tubes can reduce the risk of recurrent ear infections and the need for repeat surgery.
Depending upon a child’s need, short term tubes or longer-term tubes can be used.
- Short-term tubes. Are smaller and can remain in place for six to twelve months.
- Long-term tubes. Are larger and remain in place for a longer duration.
While the tubes can fall out on their own, removal by an otolaryngologist during an office visit is sometimes necessary.
To schedule an appointment in Savannah, GA, contact Coastal Ear, Nose & Throat at (912) 355-2335.