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by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Tympanostomy; Tympanotomy; Ear Tubes Surgery)

Definition

A myringotomy is a procedure to put a hole in the eardrum to drain fluid from the middle ear. A small tube may also be inserted into the hole to prevent it from building up again.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to:

  • Treat an ear infection that has not been helped by other methods
  • Lower the risk of ear infections
  • Restore hearing loss and prevent delayed speech development in children
  • Take a sample of fluid from the middle ear to test for infection
  • Equalize pressure in the ear and prevent fluid from building up again (if tubes are put in place)

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Poor healing
  • Hearing loss
  • Damage to ear structures
  • The need for repeat surgery

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Arranging for a ride to and from surgery

Anesthesia

The doctor may give:

  • A sedative—you will feel relaxed
  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep
  • Description of Procedure

    A small microscope will be used to view the inside of the ear. A tiny cut will be made in the eardrum to create a hole. Or a laser will be used to make the hole. Fluid from the middle ear will be drained. Some people will have a small tube inserted in the hole and left in place to let more fluid drain. The cut will heal on its own. The procedure is often done on both ears.

    Myringotomy
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    How Long Will It Take?

    15 to 20 minutes

    Will It Hurt?

    Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There will be pain and discomfort after surgery. Medicine and home care can help.

    Average Hospital Stay

    Most people go home the same day. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

    Post-Procedure Care

    At the Hospital

    After the procedure, the staff may give you pain medicine.

    At Home

    There may be discomfort for a few days. Full healing will take about 4 weeks. Some physical activities may be limited, such as swimming. Any tubes put in place will fall out on their own in 6 to 12 months or they may be removed with later surgery.

    Problems to Look Out For

    Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

    • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
    • Redness, swelling, or excessive bleeding
    • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
    • Discharge from the ear that lasts more than 4 days
    • Hearing loss
    • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
    • Lasting nausea or vomiting
    • New or worsening symptoms

    If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

    RESOURCES

    Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics  https://www.healthychildren.org 

    National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders  https://www.nidcd.nih.gov 

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery  https://www.entcanada.org 

    Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society  https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca 

    References

    Acute otitis media (AOM) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-otitis-media-in-adults. Accessed April 14, 2022.

    Acute otitis media (AOM) in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-otitis-media-aom-in-children. Accessed April 14, 2022.

    Myringotomy and tubes. The University of Chicago Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://d3qi0qp55mx5f5.cloudfront.net/comer/i/basic%5Fpages/Myringtomy%5Fwith%5FTubes%5FPostoperative%5FInstructions.pdf?mtime=1500997217. Accessed April 14, 2022.

    Otitis media with effusion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/otitis-media-with-effusion-ome. Accessed April 14, 2022.

    Revision Information