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What to Expect Before, During, and After Your Child's Ear Tube Surgery

Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. Five of every six children suffer at least one infection before they turn three, and the risk continues as their bodies mature and their immune systems develop.  Chronic ear infections are the main reason why a doctor at Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat (SCENT) recommends ear tube surgery. If your child suffers from frequent infections, contact the office today to schedule an examination.

Why children suffer more ear infections

Your child’s developing immune system is only part of the reason why they can’t fight off ear infections. The smaller structure of their bodies introduces conditions that encourage bacteria to collect and grow in the middle ear, located behind the eardrum. The bones of the middle ear are normally surrounded by air, supplied through an airway between the ear and the throat called a Eustachian tube.

When your child is young, their Eustachian tubes are close to horizontal, without the slope toward the mouth that they’ll have later, as their bodies mature. The diameter of these tubes is also smaller than they will be later in life. These factors add up to tubes that get clogged easily with a respiratory infection or other minor disorder.

As the middle ear gets blocked, a perfect bacterial habitat forms in the moist and warm inner ear. Though occasional infections are common, ear infections can become chronic for some children. Your otolaryngologist may suggest surgery to implant tympanostomy tubes as an alternate way for the middle ear to drain.

What to expect from ear tube surgery

Don’t let the sound of surgery worry you. Inserting ear tubes is a simple procedure that’s commonly done on an outpatient basis, meaning your child is home the same day as the procedure. The surgery itself takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

During the procedure, your child’s doctor makes a small incision in the eardrum and drains existing fluid from the middle ear, before placing the ear tube, made of metal or plastic. The doctor may also place antibiotic drops in the ear to halt the current infection.

The ear tube supplies a means for the middle ear to continue draining, while providing the air necessary to keep the middle ear dry and bacteria-free.

Post-surgical recovery

Pressure from fluid buildup is gone, so your child’s ears typically feel better after the procedure. There’s little discomfort, and healing is fast enough that your child could return to school the next day. You’ll follow up with your doctor at SCENT about every six months to assure the tubes are working and your child’s symptoms improve.

There’s no need for a special appointment to remove the tubes. As your child’s ears heal, the tubes naturally fall out. They typically stay in place from between six months and three years. Your SCENT professionals provide you with specifics for your child’s care after surgery.

Breaking the ear infection cycle helps your child settle into a happy, healthy routine. Contact Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat at any of their five locations by calling the office directly or requesting an appointment online. Virtual telehealth consultations are now available.

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