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Myringotomy (Ear tubes) in Children

  • Myringotomy tubes (often called ear tubes) are small tubes that are surgically placed into your child's eardrum by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon. The tubes may be made of plastic, metal, or Teflon. The tubes are placed to help drain the fluid out of the middle ear in order to reduce the risk of ear infections. During an ear infection, fluid gathers in the middle ear, which can affect your child's hearing. Sometimes, even after the infection is gone, some fluid may remain in the ear. The tubes help drain this fluid, and prevent it from building up.

    Ear tubes come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials that allow surgeons to best fit the tube to your child, but they're all designed to create an artificial hole in the eardrum to ventilate the middle ear.

    • About one million children each year have tubes placed in their ears.

    • The most common ages are from 1 to 3 years old.

    • By the age of 5 years, most children have wider and longer eustachian tubes (a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area), thus, allowing better drainage of fluids from the ear.

    Once the decision is made, the General Pediatric Otolaryngology Program at Boston Children's Hospital oversees the surgery. Your child will be attended to by:

    • Nurses. Day surgery nurses prepare your child for surgery. Operating room nurses assist the physicians during surgery. Recovery room (also called the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) nurses care for your child as he/she emerges from general anesthesia.

    • Surgeon. A physician who specializes in the placement of the tubes performs the surgery.

    • Anesthesiologist. A pediatric medical physician with specialized training in anesthesia will perform a history and physical examination and formulate a plan of anesthesia for your child. Your child will need to undergo general anesthesia.

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