Ear tube surgery - what to ask your doctor
What to ask your doctor about ear tube surgery; Tympanostomy - what to ask your doctor; Myringotomy - what to ask your doctor
Your child is being evaluated for ear tube insertion. This is the placement of tubes in your child's eardrums. It is done to allow fluid behind your child's eardrums to drain or to prevent infection. This can help your child's ears work better.
Below are some questions you may want to ask your child's health care provider to help you take care of your child's ears.
When your child's having surgery, it's a big deal to parents. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and I want to talk with you for a moment about how to prepare your child for ear tube surgery. It may seem scary, but ear tube surgery is a lot like just having your ears pierced. It happens to be the ear drum though just out of sight. Perhaps the first thing is preparing yourself because if you're feeling confident and good about the surgery, then everything will go much easier for you and for your child. And that means getting your questions answered beforehand. And in particular, the question I hear the most from parents is concern about the anesthesia. And that comes often from anesthesia risks that happened back when we were children. Anesthesia was much more dangerous than it is today. The problem was there weren't ways to monitor whether kids were getting enough oxygen to the brain or not. But since those monitors were developed about 20 years or so ago now, anesthesia has become incredibly safe - in fact, often safer than driving to the hospital. Now there other things that are important to do to prepare. First is to remember to take notice if your doctor has ordered any lab tests before the surgery. Perhaps blood tests, perhaps urine tests, maybe nothing was needed. But if it was, you want to make sure you've gotten it done before you end up going to the hospital. The second thing are instructions should've been given to you about when is the last time your child could eat or drink before heading to the hospital. Often it'll be midnight the night before, but whatever you were told be sure to take note of that and really don't cheat on this one. Nothing after what they say. And that leads to point number 3. Whatever medications that your child is taking, prescribed medicines, over-the-counter medicines, need to be taken into account. So, make sure you discuss with your physician, your anesthesiologist or the surgeon beforehand whatever medicines your child is taking and whether they should be taken or skipped after that deadline for food and drink. Next thing that's important, number 4, is to help your child select a favorite toy or stuffed animal, action figure to bring with them to the hospital. This little dog here or something that's comforting for them to have with them along the way. And it's a great idea before the whole thing depending on the age and temperament of your child to act out the whole scenario using their favorite toy. So, for instance, this little dog is not feeling well, hasn't been feeling well for awhile, has to take lots of medications, but the doctors are going to be able to fix it. Can't eat or drink anything after midnight - every step of it you go through. They're a little bit scared and they find out everything is fine and it worked out great and they get some ice cream afterwards and the problem is all gone. But to work it through with them so they get the story and it also helps you feel more prepared. I also suggest giving children something specific and fun to look forward to shortly after the surgery. It might be something as simple as a trip to the movies together or a trip to get ice cream but something that they can focus on. Take the focus a little bit off the surgery itself. Not a bad thing for you too. Then a couple of practical things. I do suggest that before going in you take off any jewelry that the child has, you bathe them, you get rid of even earrings that may stay in all the time or hair clips that may, you don't really want those at the hospital. And it's good to choose comfortable clothes when you go to the hospital, things that are easy on, easy off. It's not a fashion show. Although you may want some pictures of this cause it is a kind of historic moment. And lastly, if your child does develop any kind of fever or rash or cold beforehand, make sure to give them a call and let the folks know what's going on cause it may mean the surgery should be postponed. But the good news is that this kind of minor surgery today in children is extraordinarily safe and when it's done for the right child at the right time really helps move them ahead, move the family ahead. Most parents are really glad afterwards that the surgery has been done.
Why does my child need ear tubes?
Can we try other treatments? What are the risks of the surgery?
Is it safe to wait before getting ear tubes?
- Will it harm my child's ears if we wait longer before putting in tubes?
- Will my child still learn to speak and read if we wait longer before putting in tubes?
What type of anesthesia will my child need? Will my child feel any pain? What are the risks of the anesthesia?
How long will the tubes stay in? How do the tubes come out? Do the holes where the tubes are placed close up?
Will my child still have ear infections while the tubes are in place? Will my child have ear infections again after the ear tubes come out?
Can my child swim or get the ears wet with tubes in?
When will my child need to follow up after surgery?
Casselbrant ML, Mandel EM. Acute otitis media and otitis media with effusion. In: Lesperance MM, Flint PW, eds. Cummings Pediatric Otolaryngology. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 16.
Kerschner JE, Preciado D. Otitis media. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 640.
Yellon RF, Chi DH. Otolaryngology. In: Zitelli, BJ, McIntire SC, Norwalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:chap 24.
Last reviewed on: 10/11/2018
Reviewed by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.