How are your ears?

Almost everyone has known a child that needed to have tubes put in their ears. Infact, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, ear tube insertion is the most common childhood surgery performed that requires anesthesia. While it is most common in young children there are times tubes have to be used for older people. The procedure is more common in children due to the fact their eustachian tubes are smaller and more likely to become clogged. The good news is the procedure poses few risks and is very helpful.

The need for tubes occurs when bacteria travels from the nasal cavity into the ear when the patient has a cold or some other respiratory ailment. The bacteria stimulates inflammation and may cause fluid to build up behind the eardrum. The buildup of fluid can be very painful.

Ear infections may go away on their own but often antibiotics are needed to treat the infection. If the patient has recurring ear infections and fluid buildup, or if they go for months and the infection will not heal other problems may occur. For example the infection that does not heal may lead to hearing loss. Behavioral issues, or delays in a child’s speech development.

So exactly what does the insertion of ear tubes intell and how does it help? Once it is determined that the patient needs tubes in their ears an ear, nose, and throat doctor (Otolaryngologist) places tiny tubes in the eardrum. These tubes are usually plastic. The tubes allow air to enter the ear, equalizing the pressure between the inner ear and the outside world. The pressure is caused by the fluid buildup that may happen when you have an ear infection. The pressure can cause pain. The pain eases if the accumulation of liquid in the middle ear is prevented. The tubes also allows pus and mucus from the ear infection to drain out of the ear. If drops are used to treat the infection the tubes make it easier for the drops to travel directly into the ear. Because the tubes make it easier to use antibiotic drops the need for oral antibiotic treatment may not be needed. With some children this alone makes the procedure worthwhile.

If it is necessary for a person to have tubes placed in their ears he/she will be asleep and breathing on their own. A surgical team will monitor the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen during the entire time the procedure is taking place.

The actual surgery takes around 10 to 15 minutes. The surgeon performs the following steps:

  • makes an incision; The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the eardrum with a small scalpel or laser. If left alone, this incision would close and heal within a few days.
  • removes fluid; Using a tiny vacuum, the surgeon suctions out any excess fluids from the middle ear, cleaning out the area. This is called aspiration of the middle ear. Your doctor will determine if this step is necessary.
  • inserts the tube; To allow air to enter your ear and to drain the fluid, the surgeon inserts the tiny tube into the hole made by the incision. The surgeon may place short-term tubes, which are smaller and remain in the ear for 6 to 12 months before falling out on their own, or long-term tubes, which are larger and typically stay in place for a longer period.

If your family member needs this procedure it can be done at Outpatient Services East. Please call them for more information 205-838-3888

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