(Tympanostomy; Tympanotomy; Ear Tubes Surgery)
A myringotomy is a procedure to put a hole in the ear drum. This is done so that fluid trapped in the middle ear can drain out. The fluid may be blood, pus, and/or water. In many cases, a small tube is inserted into the hole in the ear drum. The tube helps to maintain drainage.
Reasons for Procedure
A myringotomy may be done:
After the procedure, pain and/or pressure in the ear due to fluid build-up should be alleviated. Hearing loss due to fluid build-up should improve as well.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
General anesthesia is most often used. You will be asleep. In some cases, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the ear.
Description of Procedure
A small microscope is placed in position to give the doctor a better view. A tiny incision will be made in the eardrum. Fluid from the middle ear will then be drained. In most cases, a small tube will be inserted and left in place. This will allow the drainage to continue.
No stitches will be used to close the incision. The incision will heal itself. The procedure is often done on both ears. Some doctors may use a laser beam to make the opening in the ear drum.
How Long Will It Take?
The surgery will last about 15–20 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have minor pain after surgery. Your doctor can give you pain medication or recommend a nonprescription pain reliever to manage this discomfort. Also, lidocaine ear drops may be given to decrease pain.
If ear tubes are inserted, you may feel popping, pulsation, clicking, or minor pain when burping, chewing, or yawning until the ear heals around the tubes.
After the procedure, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions, which may include:
Complete healing without complications should occur within four weeks. If ear tubes were inserted, they should fall out within 6-12 months. In some cases, surgery to remove the ear tubes may be necessary. Most ear drums heal normally after tubes come out, but visible scarring is not unusual.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
Hospital for Sick Children
Acute otitis media. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 3, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2013.
Myringotomy and PE tubes. Baylor College of Medicine Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Communicative Sciences website. Available at: http://www.bcm.edu/oto/index.cfm?pmid=16841 . Accessed September 3, 2013.
Myringotomy and PE tubes. The University of Chicago Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.uchicag... . Accessed September 3, 2013.
9/25/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Bell L. Tympanostomy tubes in children. NEJM. 2013 Aug 12. Reviewing Rosenfeld RM et al., Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2013 Jul 149:8.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD