A myringotomy is a surgical procedure done to create a hole in the ear drum to allow fluid that is trapped in the middle ear to drain out. The fluid may be blood, pus or water. In most cases, a small tube is inserted into the hole in the ear drum to help maintain drainage.

Reasons to Have a Myringotomy

  • To restore hearing loss caused by chronic fluid build-up and to avoid delayed speech development caused by hearing loss in children.

  • To place tympanostomy tubes — these tubes aid in equalizing pressure. It may also help prevent recurring ear infections and buildup of fluid behind the ear drum.

  • To treat an ear infection that is not responding to medical treatment.

  • To take sample fluid from the middle ear to test in the lab to check for bacteria or other infections

Myringotomy Risks

Problems from this medical procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will discuss possible problems such as:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Chronic scarring

  • Failure of the myringotomy cut in the ear drum to heal as expected, which may lead to frequent drainage.

  • Hearing loss

  • Injury to other ear structures

  • Need for repeat surgery

About the Myringotomy Procedure

Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Blood tests

  • Hearing test

  • Tympanogram — to measure how well the ear drum responds to changes in pressure.

  • Examine the external ear and the ear drum with a tool called an otoscope.

Prepare for Your Myringotomy

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the medical procedure.

  • Do not eat or drink anything for at least eight hours prior to the procedure.

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications one week before the procedure, such as:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

  • Blood thinners

  • Antiplatelets

About the Procedure

A small microscope positioned to give the doctor a better view. A tiny cut will be made in the eardrum. The fluid from the middle ear will then be drained. In most cases, a small tube will be put in and left in place. This allows the drainage to continue.

No stitches will be used to close the cut. The incision will heal itself. The medical procedure is usually done on both ears. The surgical procedure will last about 15–20 minutes.

Does a Myringotomy Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during the surgical procedure. You may have minor pain after surgery. Your doctor can give you pain medication or recommend a pain reliever to manage the discomfort. Also, lidocaine ear drops may be given to reduce pain.

If ear tubes are inserted, you may feel popping, pulsation or a minor pain when belching, chewing or yawning until the ear heals.

After the Procedure

After the procedure, make sure you follow your doctor's instructions, such as:

  • If cotton was placed in the ear canal to absorb postsurgical drainage, change it frequently.

  • If you are given ear drops, use as instructed. You will usually put three drops in each ear, three times a day for three days after the surgery.

  • If water gets in the ear after the surgical procedure, monitor for drainage. If drainage starts, use ear drops if directed by your doctor, and if drainage continues for three days, call your doctor.

  • Take any medications recommended by your doctor.

  • Use ear plugs as directed by your doctor while swimming or bathing, and avoid underwater swimming and diving.

  • Do not clean your ear after the surgical procedure or place anything other than ear drops, cotton or ear plugs into the ear.

  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to bathe or soak in water.

Complete healing without complications should take place within four weeks. If ear tubes were put in, they should fall out within 6-12 months. In some cases, surgery to take out the ear tubes may be necessary. Most ear drums heal after tubes come out, but visible scarring is not uncommon.

When to Call

After arriving home, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection like fever and chills.

  • Redness, swelling, severe pain, excessive bleeding or discharge from the ear.

  • Pain that you can’t control with the medications you have been given.

  • Drainage from ear continues for more than four days after the surgical procedure.

  • Decreased hearing.

  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, severe nausea or vomiting.

DisclaimerThe information provided herein is for patient general knowledge only and should not be used during any medical emergency, diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Duplication for personal and commercial use must be authorized in writing by

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