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Recurrent Ear Infections: How can tubes help?

By the age of 2 more than 80% of children will suffer from an ear infection. Ear infections are usually accompanied by an upper respiratory infection. The Eustachian tubes of children under the age of 3 are more horizontal than adults. This allows fluid to get trapped in the middle ear space which leads to infection. Acute ear infections are usually effectively treated with oral antibiotics. Tympanostomy tubes are a viable treatment option when infections become recurrent and/or unresponsive to conservative antibiotic treatment.

Myringotomy with tympanostomy tube placement is a common procedure for the management of chronic and recurrent ear infections. A small incision is made in the ear drum through which a small soft tube is placed. This tube provides drainage, ventilation and pressure equalization to the middle ear. This procedure can reduce occurrence infections and improve hearing.

Hearing is assessed before and after tube placement. A post-operative appointment is made a few weeks after surgery and periodically thereafter. During these follow up appointments we will check for any changes in hearing, the condition of the tubes and the eardrum. The tubes stay in place for an average of 12 months. The body then begins to reject the tube and it is pushed out of the ear drum. Usually by the time the tubes are extruded, the child has outgrown the need for tubes and a second set is not necessary.

Crystal Rice, NP