What's It Like: To get tubes placed in your ears

What's it Like: Myringotomy, or ear tube surgery, primarily is performed on children but also may be necessary for some adults
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 12, 2013

Children might wake up from anesthesia frustrated with what happened, and they might cry or be confused about where they are. Significant discomfort is rare, though.

What are the risk factors?

The tubes can sometimes cause chronic infection. Sometimes the tube can fall inside the ear. If it's not causing problems, though, your doctor might recommend leaving it there. And sometimes the tube can become plugged and not work. In rare instances, a person might have abnormal anatomy, and when the doctor inserts the tube, it hits a vein or an artery that can cause bleeding.

What's the recovery time?

Your child should be able to return to day care or school fairly soon after surgery. Your child might be prescribed some ear drops or antibiotics to take for a few days after surgery.

Children shouldn't feel like there's something in their ears. Rather, it might feel like there's better ventilation.

What's the follow-up?

Your doctor might want to see your child a month after surgery to do a hearing test. Your child will probably have regular visits, maybe every six months, until the tubes fall out.

The amount of time the tubes lasts depends, in part, on what type of tubes are used. If they're short acting, they last between three months and about a year. In some cases, your doctor will use long-acting tubes, which last about three years. In some cases, they'll need to be removed by your child's ear, nose and throat specialist.

Some children will need a second ear tube surgery. Children who have Down syndrome, craniofacial abnormalities or immune system disorders might need the surgery more than twice.

Source: Dr. Paul Digoy, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at OU Children's Physicians; American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery; The National Institutes of Health.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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