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Myringotomy Tubes

What are myringotomy tubes (also called ear tubes, tympanostomy tubes, or ventilation tubes)?

Myringotomy tubes are small tubes that are surgically placed into your child's eardrum by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon. The tubes may be made of plastic, metal, or Teflon®. The tubes are placed to help drain the fluid out of the middle ear in order to reduce the risk of ear infections. During an ear infection, fluid gathers in the middle ear, which can affect your child's hearing. Sometimes, even after the infection is gone, some fluid may remain in the ear. The tubes help drain this fluid, and prevent it from building up. The most common ages are from one to three years old. By the age of five years, most children have wider and longer eustachian tubes (a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area), thus, allowing better drainage of fluids from the ear.

Who needs ear tubes?

The insertion of ear tubes may be recommended by your child's physician and/or a ear, nose, and throat physician if several of the following conditions are present:

What are the risks and benefits of ear tubes?

The risks and benefits will be different for each child. It is important to discuss this with your child's physician and surgeon. The following are some of the possible benefits that may be discussed:

The following are some of the risks that may be discussed:

How are ear tubes inserted?

Myringotomy is the surgical procedure that is performed to insert ear tubes. Insertion of the tubes is usually an outpatient procedure. This means that your child will have surgery, and then go home that same day. Before the surgery, you will meet with different members of the healthcare team who will be involved in your child's care. These may include:

Myringotomy involves making a small opening in the eardrum to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure from the middle ear. A small tube is placed in the opening of the eardrum to ventilate the middle ear and to prevent fluid from accumulating. The child's hearing is restored after the fluid is drained. The tubes usually fall out on their own after six to twelve months. Your child's recovery will be monitored closely. Your child must meet all discharge criteria in order to go home. Follow-up care is needed for your child based on the surgeon's recommendations. Usually, you will return in about two to four weeks, then four to six months after the tubes have been inserted, and then approximately one year later. Your child's physician will help manage the care of your child in-between these visits, in agreement with the surgeon.

Care of the child after the ear tubes are inserted:

The following are some of the instructions that may be given to you following the placement of ear tubes in your child:

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