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Managing Expectations After Ear Tube Placement Surgery

Children with chronic ear infections can benefit from ear tube surgery. Those who suffer from limited hearing or a collapsed eardrum due to fluid build-up or persistent negative pressure can benefit from tympanostomy. During the operation, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon will place a small cylinder in the middle ear to improve airflow and fluid drainage. Understanding what happens after surgery can improve the surgery’s overall results.

Let it flow

Ear drainage is a common occurrence during the following days, weeks, or months following the surgery. Worried parents may believe the drainage is a cause for concern. A tympanostomy helps improve drainage. The alternative is painful fluid build-up. A little drainage is good and can be treated with antibiotics.

When to see a doctor

Minor drainage is common after surgery. The symptom becomes a problem when the fluid release is chronic and occurs for over a month without relief from antibiotics. Children with constant ear drainage after surgery should consult with the surgeon for additional treatment including ear suctioning and oral or topical antibiotics.

Long-term expectations

Children’s middle ear tube, also known as the eustachian tube, is narrower, smaller, and horizontal compared to adult tubes. The developing ear is consistently growing. The inserted ear tube will likely grow and fall out between 8-14 months after surgery and require reinsertion if the ear tubes have not fully developed.

Using antibiotic ear drops

After surgery, surgeons will often recommend parents use ear drops in the affected ear to clear away any blood or debris during the first week. Surgeons may recommend a parent use five antibiotic drops, twice a day for a week to ensure proper recovery and avoid infections. A child may still experience ear drainage with the use of ear drops a month after surgery.

Fighting bacterial infections

Antibiotic drops are known to reduce the duration of drainage. Instead of being out for over a week, a child may recover within three days with antibiotic drops. When simple drops don’t work, a doctor may recommend a different type of ear drops including a combination of antibiotics and steroids.

Finding relief from ear pain

Parents are advised to stay on top of managing drainage, cleaning the area, and using ear drops to fight off the infection. A few simple steps can keep fluid from accumulating and lead to pain in the middle ear. Parents can consult with a surgeon to find a personalized treatment plan that will help a child avoid ear infections and have a successful surgery.