What is ear tube surgery?

Children can get middle ear infections (otitis media) when they have a cold or other respiratory infection. Recurrent ear infections (recurrent acute otitis media) and/or persistent fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion) may become a chronic problem leading to other issues such as hearing loss, poor school performance, or behavior and speech problems. When this occurs, ear tube surgery, which is an insertion of ear tubes by an ENT doctor, may be considered. During this procedure, your child’s ENT doctor will create a small hole in the eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane) to allow fluids to drain out and to permit air to enter the ear to help drainage and healing. This first step is also called a myringotomy.

The tube will help the fluid drain from the middle ear.

The ENT doctor will then place the ear tubes, which are tiny cylinders, through the eardrum hole to maintain the opening and allow air into the middle ear. Ear tubes may also be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or Pressure Equalization (PE) tubes.

Size of ear tubes compared to a dime.

Ear tubes may reduce the risk of future ear infection, restore hearing loss caused by fluid in the ear, improve speech and balance problems, and improve behavior problems related to ear infections.1

Traditionally, ear tube surgery is performed in an operating room while your child is under general anesthesia. After the surgical team has inserted the tubes, you are reunited with your child in the recovery area. Each year in the US, approximately 700,000 ear tube surgeries are performed on children in an operating room, making it the most common childhood surgery performed with general anesthesia.2

Ear Tube Surgery Overview

In the Operating Room (OR)

In the Hospital or the Ambulatory Surgery Center, your child is under general anesthesia for about 15 – 20 3 minutes during the procedure. You will see your child after he/she wakes up. Families typically spend about 2-3 hours at the facility.4

In the Doctor’s Office (Tula)

In the doctor’s office, a device is used to deliver numbing medication to your child’s eardrum and ear tubes are inserted. You can stay with your child during the entire procedure which typically lasts about 35 minutes.6

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    No eating 6 hours before surgery.5

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    Child goes into operating room. Parent goes into the waiting room.

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    Child is put under general anesthesia, then ear tubes are inserted.

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    Child wakes up and is typically able to go home within a few hours.4

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    You are with your child in the procedure room.

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    Child wears an earplug and quietly plays for about 10 minutes while the numbing medicine works.

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    Child’s head is stabilized and ear tubes are inserted.

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    Parent & Child leave right after procedure.

Compare Ear Tube Placement in the Operating Room vs. in the Office

Operating Room

Doctor’s Office (Tula)

Pros

  • Your child is asleep and immobile during the procedure
  • This surgery has historically been the standard of care
  • No general anesthesia
  • You can stay with your child
  • Your child can likely return to normal activities following procedure without grogginess
  • No fasting. Your child can eat or drink during the procedure

Cons

  • Possible side effects and complications of general anesthesia
  • Fasting is required prior to surgery
  • You will be separated from your child during the procedure
  • Your child must be willing to wear earplugs for about 10 minutes, and sit still for ear tube insertion
  • Your child may be rescheduled for a procedure in the Operating Room if the in-office procedure is not successful. Rescheduling may be necessary if the numbing medication is ineffective or if your child is unable to sit still

A New Alternative

Speak with an ENT doctor trained in the Tula System to find out if ear tube placement in the doctor’s office is right for your child.

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