A myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which a small incision is made in the tympanic membrane (eardrum) to remove fluid such as blood, pus, or water from the middle ear. The fluid is usually caused by an infection or allergies. In many cases, a small ear tube is inserted into the eardrum to maintain the drainage.
A myringotomy is performed to relieve pressure due to chronic fluid buildup in the middle ear that has not responded to other treatments. Although some adults may undergo this operation, myringotomies are most often performed on children. The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis with a general anesthetic. Some adults may only require a local anesthetic.
Reasons For A Myringotomy
When adults require this operation it is usually as a result of barotrauma, or sudden change in ear pressure, which may be caused by scuba-diving, air travel, mountain climbing or explosion. Adults may also require a myringotomy when they develop mastoiditis, an infection of the bone behind the ear, that has spread, or is in danger of spreading.
Most doctors do not suggest a myringotomy for children’s ear infections unless:
- There are recurrent ear infections in a short period of time
- Fluid buildup persists for over 6 months in one ear
- Fluid buildup persists for over 3 months in both ears
- Hearing is badly affected
- There is a speech delay
- It is necessary to remove fluid for laboratory examination
A myringotomy is nearly always successful and provides immediate relief from symptoms. Most children on whom this procedure is performed do not suffer any hearing loss or speech delays.
Risks of a myringotomy in particular may include continuing drainage from the ear or a hole in the eardrum that does not heal. In the case of the latter, the eardrum will need to be surgically repaired.