Myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the tympanic membrane (eardrum), providing drainage for fluid trapped in the middle ear. It can provide relief for children who experience frequent middle ear infections (otitis media). Often, ear tubes are placed through the eardrum in conjunction with the procedure. These allow the eardrum to remain open and provide better ventilation and a pathway for fluid drainage, aiding in the prevention of recurring ear infections.
What Are Ear Tubes?
When fluid builds up in the middle ear and fails to drain properly, your child may experience some hearing loss. This can negatively impact his or her ability to learn speech and language, and may lead to behavioral problems and permanent damage to the eardrum.
Children who experience repeated middle ear infections and/or persistent fluid buildup in the middle ear are good candidates for a myringotomy procedure and ear tube insertion. Surgery and tubes may also be recommended for those who have suffered from a severe ear infection that has caused damage to the mastoid bones or adjacent nerves, or individuals whose ears have been injured from sudden changes in pressure.
During a myringotomy procedure, the child is given general anesthesia. An incision is made in the eardrum and fluid in the middle ear space is suctioned out. Ear tubes are then inserted into the surgical hole. In some cases, the adenoids are removed, as well. This can reduce the odds of future ear infections occurring. Most children are free to return home within an hour or two.
Other than a little grogginess or irritability, there is little risk of pain or other complications following the procedure. Ear tubes usually fall out on their own in a year or two. If they are still in place after three years, they may be removed surgically. If infections start up again, another set of tubes can be inserted.
The majority of children who have undergone myringotomy with tubes report significantly fewer ear infections, and recover more quickly from any that do occur. Hearing loss resulting from fluid in the middle ear is reversed, and there should be a corresponding improvement in speech, balance, behavior and sleep problems caused by recurring ear infections.
There is minimal risk involved with ear tubes. Some children might experience a perforated eardrum or persistent ear drainage following the procedure. These problems are rare, and usually don’t cause long-term problems. Care should be taken to keep the ears dry, as moisture might lead to infection.
Call Medical Hearing Clinic at (801) 399-5014 for more information or to schedule an appointment.