Ear tube insertion

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If your child gets a lot of ear infections, he may need to have surgery. Let's talk about ear tube insertion.

So, why does my child need ear tube surgery?
Your child has been having ear infections, probably for a long time, and they either won't go away or they keep coming back. If your child doesn't have ear tube surgery, there's a chance he will lose some hearing or have other long-term ear problems.

Once a decision to have surgery has been made, it's good to know what happens during the surgery. Your child will be given general anesthesia. He'll be unconscious and unable to feel pain. The surgeon will make a small cut in your child's eardrum and remove any fluid behind it. Once the fluid is removed, the surgeon will place a small tube through the eardrum. The tube will allow air to flow inward. This keeps the pressure the same on both sides of the eardrum, while letting any fluid still behind the eardrum flow out.

Your child will probably go home the same day as surgery. He'll probably be fussy and groggy while the anesthesia wears off. On your way home, you may need to stop at the drug store to pick up antibiotic drops to use in your child's ears for the first few days after surgery.

The cut in your child's eardrum will heal on its own, and the tube will eventually fall out. Your child will be able to return to his normal activities shortly. But some doctors may recommend that your child use earplugs when he swims or bathes, to keep water out of his ears.

After a child has ear tube surgery, he will usually have fewer ear infections. And if he does have an ear infection, he will usually recover faster than he used to.

Ear tube insertion

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/25/2011
  • Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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