If your child experiences frequent ear infections, their pediatrician may suggest ear tube surgery. While the idea of your child undergoing surgery may be nerve wracking, this procedure is common, safe and effective. We provide an overview of what you need to know about ear tubes below.
Ear Tubes Treat Ear Infections
Ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to the doctor. Ear infections are caused by fluid becoming trapped in the middle ear, which in many cases can harbor bacteria.
While anyone can get an ear infection, children are much more prone to them. This is partly due to the fact that their Eustachian tubes – which drain fluids from the middle ear and help equalize air pressure – are much smaller and more horizontal than adults’, meaning they can become blocked more easily. They’re also more susceptible because their immune systems have not fully developed, making it easy to pick up a virus that causes inflammation in the ears.
Signs of an ear infection in small children include:
- Tugging on the ears
- Fussing and crying
- Trouble sleeping
- Fluid draining form the ears
- Balance problems
- Trouble hearing
How Do Ear Tubes Work?
Ear tubes are tiny tubes made out of metal or plastic that are surgically placed in the eardrum. This allows air to flow in and out, equalizing pressure between the middle ear and environment and helping fluid drain. In most cases, ear tubes will fall out on their own as the eardrum heals.
How Is Surgery Performed?
Ear tube surgery, also called a myringotomy, is performed by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician in an operating room. An anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia and monitor your child closely to ensure they are safe and comfortable.
Next, the doctor makes a small hole in each eardrum and uses a suction to remove fluid from the middle ear. This can all be performed through the ear canal, so there’s no visible incisions or stitches. Finally, the physician will place the tubes.
The entire procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes, though your child will have to stay at the hospital for a few hours after to be monitored.
Is Ear Tube Surgery Safe?
Ear tube surgery is extremely common and safe. As with any surgery, there are some risks, including infection, bleeding and complications with anesthesia. In rare circumstances, the hole in the eardrum may not close back up on its own and require a second surgery.
For more information about ear tubes or to talk to a doctor about treating your child’s recurrent ear infections, call the experts at Willamette ENT today!