Tympanostomy (Ear Tube)

Tympanostomy (Ear Tube)

Tympanostomy is a simple surgical procedure that places a tiny tube into the eardrum. The tube drains fluid buildup and balances air pressure on both sides of the eardrum.

Doctor and patient
Right before surgery, your child will breathe a small amount of gas. This light general anesthesia allows children to sleep through the procedure.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provideri f your otherwise healthy child has any of the signs or symptoms described below:

  • The ear bleeds heavily or keeps bleeding after the first 48 hours.

  • Sticky or discolored fluid drains out of the ear after the first 48 hours.

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

  • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • You child is dizzy, confused, extremely drowsy, or has a change in mental state.

Before the Procedure

  • Unless you’re told otherwise, stop giving your child food and drink at least 4 hours before the scheduled arrival time.

  • Your child’s temperature will be taken to rule out any active infection, which could require postponing surgery.

  • Upon arrival, your child may be given a mild sedative to help him or her relax.

  • You—as parent or legal guardian—will be given a consent form to sign after the doctor has discussed the procedure with you.

During the Procedure Image

  • Using an operating microscope and special surgical instruments, a small slit in the eardrum (tympanotomy) is made.

  • A suction tube gently removes fluid buildup through the slit in the eardrum. In some cases, a fluid sample may be sent to a lab to see if the infection is still active.

  • A tiny tube is inserted into the same slit in the eardrum (tympanostomy). Once in position, the shape of the tube helps keep it in place. Tubes can be made of plastic or metal, and they vary slightly in size and shape.

After the Procedure

  • Within a half-hour, your child will wake up. When you join your child, don’t be alarmed if he or she is upset. Anesthesia may reduce self-control, causing some children to cry or scream.

  • Once your child is calm enough to sit up and drink fluids, he or she can go home.

  • At home, be sure to give your child any antibiotics or eardrops as directed by your health care provider.