Myringotomy and PE Tubes
A myringotomy is a surgical opening of the eardrum in an effort to remove fluid or decrease the number of infections of the middle ear. Usually, a small plastic tube--or pressure equalizing tube (PE tube)--is inserted through the opening in order to allow air to get to the middle ear for a prolonged period. It also allows for continued drainage of middle ear fluid. This tube does not impair hearing nor can your child feel it. The tube usually remains in place for an average of 12 months and falls out on its own.
- A surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum.
- Any fluid present is removed.
- The surgeon places a small tube in the ear.
Immediately Following Surgery
Your child may have liquids or food after waking up from the anesthetic. The healthcare staff at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital will give your child a pain reliever, such as Tylenol, if he or she has ear pain.
During the procedure, your child's surgeon may have inserted cotton in the ear canal to absorb drainage. This drainage may be blood-tinged and could last for two or three days. The cotton should be changed as often as necessary while the drainage is present.
The Days After the Procedure
Your child's activity should be back to normal. This includes returning to school.
If you have been given a bottle of eardrops, then place three drops in each ear three times a day for three days and then stop.
General Care Instructions
Water should not be allowed to enter the ear, since this may cause an infection. Underwater swimming, as well as jumping and diving into the water, is not encouraged. Otherwise swimming is allowed, as long as earplugs are used. If your child does not feel comfortable with earplugs, he or she will be allowed to swim in clean chlorinated pools, or the ocean, without them. Swimming in lake water, which is usually more likely to be contaminated, is discouraged without earplugs. Either earplugs or cotton with Vaseline on it must be used when taking a bath or washing the hair. Also, if your child does get water in his or her ear, he or she might develop drainage from the ear canal and could need treatment with eardrops. Please call your child's doctor if this happens.
Ear drainage may occur immediately after the procedure or at any time while the tubes are in place. If drainage lasts for more than two days or smells foul, further treatment may be necessary. Your child's doctor or nurse should be contacted for instructions.
Ear popping, cracking, or pain when burping, yawning, or chewing might occur following insertion of the tubes. This will disappear as the ear heals.
During the follow-up appointment, the position of the tubes will be checked and your child’s hearing may be evaluated. Your child’s ears should be checked every six months by his or her pediatrician or otolaryngologist to determine the position of the tubes and remove them from the ear canal if they have come out of the drum.