Common Surgeries - Ear Tubes

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What are Ear tubes?
Ear tubes are small plastic or silastic tubes that are inserted into the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to help ventilate the middle ear and prevent fluid from building up behind the eardrum. These tubes have been proven to help decrease the number of ear infections (otitis media) in children. The tubes allow the pressure in the middle ear to be equal to the pressure outside the ear. This is why they are sometimes called PE tubes or "pressure equalization" tubes.

When are tubes a consideration?
Your doctor may have sent you to us to be evaluated for placement of PE tubes. This procedure is the most commonly performed ear operation and remains extremely safe and effective. Ear tubes are often recommended for children who get repeated ear infections or for those who develop fluid behind the eardrum that does not go away. (otitis media with effusion) The tubes are especially helpful in reversing the hearing loss due to fluid stuck behind the eardrum. Both of these problems are most common between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, although older children sometimes have these problems too. Each individual is different and it is not possible to give an exact number of ear infections needed before PE tubes should be considered. General guidelines based on past research has shown that children with more than four infections in six months or more than 6 infections in one year would probably benefit from placement of PE tubes.

What is involved with PE tube placement?
Every patient who is to undergo PE tubes is first scheduled for a hearing test (audiogram). This is to document the baseline hearing and also to measure how much hearing loss may be present from fluid in the middle ear. The surgery is done in the operating room with a very brief general anesthetic. The whole surgery lasts only 10-15 minutes and is performed using a special microscope. Everything is done thru the ear canal so there are no outside incisions at all. A tiny hole (myringotomy) is made in the ear drum through which any fluid is suctioned away. Then a very small PE tube is placed through that same hole allowing air to enter the middle ear. Drops are then placed in the ear canal and the procedure is finished. This procedure is almost always done as an outpatient and your child will be sent home with a prescription for antibiotic ear drops.

Your child will be given specific instructions after surgery but most can return to normal activities once leaving the hospital. Children can return to daycare the next day. Post op care is individualized and will be discussed by your surgeon. Plan on making a post operative visit to the office 3-4 weeks after surgery. This visit will include an exam of the ears as well as the possibility of a follow up hearing test.


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Education Links

» ENT Glossary
» ENT Problems
» Speech & Hearing
» Common Surgeries
» Post-Op Instructions


Clinic Locations

Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic
University Hospital Clinics Building
1005 Harborside Drive
Galveston, Texas

Ear, Nose & Throat Consultants
Brittany Plaza
1600 West League City Parkway, Suite D
League City, Texas

Family HealthCare Center
Mainland Crossing
9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway
Texas City, Texas

For an appointment,
please call: