Ear Tube Surgery
A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog about common pediatric surgeries. Since then I have gotten a lot of questions about these surgeries, including why a child would have to have them and what they entail. I decided to answer these questions about one of my favorite surgeries to take care of, the second most common pediatric surgical procedure done on an outpatient basis – myringotomy with tubes, also know as ear tube surgery.
What is an ear tube –
This surgery is more commonly referred to as ear tubes surgery. The tubes can be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or pressure equalizations (PE) tubes. Each tube is a tiny cylinder that the surgeon puts through the ear drum or tympanic membrane.
Why have ear tube surgery –
Ear infections are common in kids. They can be caused by a virus which usually goes away on their own or bacteria which can usually be treated with antibiotics. When these ear infections become a chronic problem, it can lead to other issues.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, the average age for ear tube insertion is one to three years old. They say that by having these tubes inserted it could –
- Reduce the risk of future ear infection;
- Restore hearing loss caused by middle ear fluid;
- Improve speech problems and balance problems; and
- Improve behavior and sleep problems caused by chronic ear infections; and
- Help children do their best in school.
How is ear tube surgery done –
The surgery is most often done under general anesthesia. The otolaryngologist, ENT specialist, makes a small incision in the ear drum. The tube is inserted to keep the hole open. This lets air get to the middle ear. If there is any fluid behind the ear drum from an infection, it can be suctioned out. The surgery is short, usually less than 15 minutes (not including the time for the anesthesiologist to have the patient go to sleep and wake up).
Recovery after ear tube surgery –
After this surgery, kids are usually in recovery for under an hour and then they get to go home. Most kids don’t complain about too much pain. The ones that can talk, sometimes say it doesn’t hurt but that it feels weird or that things sound louder. Waking up they can be groggy, dizzy, or irritable due to the effects of the anesthesia. There aren’t usually any restrictions about getting the ears wet. The tubes usually stay in place for six to eighteen months and can fall out any time on their own. If they don’t fall out they may need to be removed by the otolaryngologist.
Ear tube surgery, one of my favorites –
I like taking care of kids after having ear tube surgery because most of the time they aren’t in any pain. I love this age, usually one to three years old. They can be so funny waking up and they can also be so crazy waking up. Most of the time, because it is such a fast surgery, they don’t have IVs. They wake up, fuss or act crazy for a little bit, eat a popsicle or drink some juice and go home. Usually by the time my ear tube patient is on their way out the door to go home the next one is already rolling into recovery and the fun starts all over again.
If your child has had numerous ear infections or ones that don’t get better with antibiotics, talk to your pediatrician or an otolaryngologist. Maybe they would benefit from a set of ear tubes.