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Ear Tube Insertion: What to Expect

Prior to Surgery

  • You may be asked to stop giving your child certain medicines as advised by the ENT.
  • Ask your doctor which medications your child should still take on the day of the surgery.
  • Discuss any possible bleeding disorders or other medical conditions that your child may have.
  • Let your doctor know if your child develops a cold, flu, fever or other illness prior to surgery.
  • This may require that the procedure be rescheduled.

On the Day of the Surgery

  • Your child will not be able to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before the surgery.
  • Give your child any medications the doctor approved with a small sip of water.
  • Arrive at the hospital at the given time.

After Surgery

Your child will most likely be able to go home after recovering for about an hour.

  • Please limit any activities – such as running and playing – for the first couple of days.
  • Your child may be slightly nauseated from the anesthesia, so gradually add solid food back into their his or her diet.
  • Some children may vomit once or twice after surgery. This is normal. Your child’s doctor may prescribe something medication to reduce nausea.
  • Keep the ear dry while the tubes are in place. Your child may need to wear ear plugs while bathing or swimming.

Recovery: what to expect in the next few weeks

Most children recover within a couple of days but should follow doctor’s orders about activities. Most children will have ear drops to use for a few days. Your child will have some yellowish fluid/mucus drainage for the next several days.

You can help keep your child’s ear dry by using cotton balls that are changed regularly. If you notice a foul odor, it could be a sign of infection, so please call the doctor to report this change. The tubes, which normally fall out on their own, will remain in place for the next six to 18 months.

Middle Ear Infections Q&A

What does the procedure involve?

Under general anesthesia, the surgeon inserts a tiny microscope into the ear canal and cuts the ear drum. Any fluid will be suctioned out and the tube inserted in the cut. All incisions, which are very small, are made inside the ear, so there are no visible cuts. The tube will allow for drainage. The doctor will put a small cotton insert in the ear to absorb the drainage, which can be changed as needed.

How many incisions are made?

One small cut is made in the ear drum. There are no incisions made on the outside of the ear.

How long does my child stay in the hospital?

This is normally an outpatient procedure, and your child will most likely go home the same day.

What is the recovery time?

Your child will recover within a few days. There will be some drainage and slight pain, but this will go away in three to four days. There are some bathing and swimming restrictions because water in the ear can result in infection.