Children's Hospital Colorado
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Ear, Nose and Throat

Ear Tube Surgery

What is ear tube surgery?

Ear tube surgery is an outpatient procedure to place tubes in your child’s ears. Your child may need ear tube surgery if they have frequent ear infections that do not respond to antibiotics.

The purpose of the ear tube is to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the environment. The ear tubes allow extra fluid from the infection to drain out, which reduces inflammation and allows the ear to heal. This procedure can help decrease ear infections and resolve symptoms such as hearing loss.

Watch this video animation about ear infections and ear tubes to learn more.



How do I help prepare my child for ear tube surgery?

Your child’s providers will tell you when your child should stop eating and drinking before surgery. Your child should not eat or drink too close to the time of surgery. If your child’s stomach is not empty at the time of anesthesia, the stomach contents can come up and enter the lungs. This is called aspiration, which can cause serious health problems.

The surgery will be rescheduled if your child eats or drinks too close to the time of surgery.

Your child should not have any gum, candy or mints on the day of surgery.

What happens during ear tube surgery?

Ear tube surgery is usually done under general anesthesia. Anesthesia is the use of medicines called anesthetics to keep your child from feeling pain during a surgery or procedure.

Your child's surgeon will make a small incision in the eardrum and clean fluid out of the middle ear. The surgeon will then place a small, hollow tube in the incision. The tube is usually made from surgical-grade plastic or metal. The surgery takes about 10 minutes.

The surgeon may recommend that your child have an adenoidectomy at the same time as ear tube surgery. An adenoidectomy is surgery to remove the adenoid. The adenoid is a small patch of tissue located behind the nose. It helps fight off infection by trapping bacteria that enter through the mouth. In some cases, bacteria can get trapped in the adenoids and lead to chronic infections.

An adenoidectomy may be recommended if your child needs a second set of tubes or has significant nasal blockage from enlarged adenoids.

What can we expect after my child’s ear tube surgery?

Anesthesia from surgery may cause your child to have nausea or feel groggy or irritable right after surgery. Our care team will watch your child closely while they recover and then your child will be able to go home.

Ear tubes generally stay in place for six to 12 months. The ear tubes will then fall out on their own. The most common risk of the procedure is ear drainage, which generally responds to antibiotic ear drops. Rarely, a small hole may remain on the eardrum after the tube falls out. This only occurs in about 1% of children.

Your child's surgeon will see your child again three to four weeks after surgery to make sure the tubes are working well and to do a hearing test. After that, your child will have follow-up appointments every nine to 12 months until the tubes have fallen out. There is a 30% chance that your child will need more than one set of tubes.

How do I care for my child at home after ear tube surgery?

Your child will most likely have little to no pain. They may have a mild fever or complain that sounds are louder. They may also eat less than normal.

Fluid may drain from your child’s ears for two to three days after surgery. Your child’s doctor may prescribe antibiotic ear drops for a few days until the drainage stops.

Why choose Children’s Colorado for my child’s ear tube surgery?

At Children’s Colorado, we specialize in pediatric care. From the moment you walk into our hospital, we are focused on providing a pleasant and kid-friendly experience for your child.

Ear tube surgery is one of the most common outpatient surgical procedures that our pediatric otolaryngology doctors perform. We have also have a dedicated team of pediatric anesthesiologists, nurses and child life specialists who all work together to make your child’s ear tube surgery as comfortable as possible.

Learn more about ear, nose and throat services at Children's Colorado.

Contact us

Call us at 720-777-8501 to schedule an appointment for ear tube surgery.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your health questions.

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