Tympanostomy Tubes in Children

Publication Date: February 9, 2022

Key Points

Key Points

  • Insertion of tympanostomy tubes is the most common ambulatory surgery performed on children in the United States.
  • Tympanostomy tubes are most often inserted because of persistent middle ear fluid, frequent ear infections, or ear infections that persist after antibiotic therapy.
    • All these conditions are encompassed by the term otitis media (middle ear inflammation), which is second in frequency only to acute upper respiratory infection (URI) as the most common illness diagnosed in children by health care professionals.
  • When children receive surgery for OME (Table 1), insertion of tympanostomy tubes is the preferred initial procedure, with candidacy dependent primarily on hearing status, associated symptoms, and the child’s developmental risk.
  • Risks and potential adverse events of tympanostomy tube insertion are related to both general anesthesia, usually required for the procedure, and the effects of the tympanostomy tube on the tympanic membrane and middle ear.
  • When making clinical decisions, the risks of tube insertion must be balanced against the risks of chronic OME, recurrent otitis media, or both conditions, which include suppurative complications, damage to the tympanic membrane, adverse effects of antibiotics, and potential developmental sequelae of the mild to moderate hearing loss that is often associated with middle ear effusion.

Table 1. Abbreviations and Definitions of Common Terms

Having trouble viewing table?
Term Definition
Myringotomy A surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the tympanic membrane for the purpose of draining fluid or providing short-term ventilation
Tympanostomy tube insertion Surgical placement of a tube through a myringotomy incision for purposes of temporary middle ear ventilation. Tympanostomy tubes generally last several months to several years, depending on tube design and placement location in the tympanic membrane. Synonyms include ventilation tubes, pressure equalization tubes, grommets (United Kingdom), and bilateral myringotomy and tubes
Otitis media with effusion (OME) The presence of fluid in the middle ear without signs or symptoms of acute ear infection
Chronic OME OME persisting for 3 months or longer from the date of onset (if known) or from the date of diagnosis (if onset unknown)
Hearing assessment A means of gathering information about a child’s hearing status, which may include caregiver report, audiologic assessment by an audiologist, or hearing testing by a physician or allied health professional using screening or standard equipment, which may be automated or manual. Does not include the use of noisemakers or other nonstandardized methods
Acute otitis media (AOM) The rapid onset of signs and symptoms of inflammation of the middle ear
Persistent AOM Persistence of symptoms or signs of AOM during antimicrobial therapy (treatment failure) and/or relapse of AOM within 1 month of completing antibiotic therapy. When 2 episodes of otitis media occur within 1 month, it may be difficult to distinguish recurrence of AOM (ie, a new episode) from persistent otitis media (ie, relapse)
Recurrent AOM Three or more well-documented and separate AOM episodes in the past 6 months or at least 4 well-documented and separate AOM episodes in the past 12 months with at least 1 in the past 6 months
Middle ear effusion (MEE) Fluid in the middle ear from any cause but most often from OME and during, or after, an episode of AOM
Conductive hearing loss (CHL) Hearing loss, from abnormal or impaired sound transmission to the inner ear, which is often associated with effusion in the middle ear
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) Hearing loss that results from abnormal transmission of sound from the sensory cells of the inner ear to the brain
Tympanostomy tube otorrhea (TTO) Discharge from the middle ear through the tube, usually caused by AOM or external contamination of the middle ear from water entry (swimming, bathing, or hair washing)
Retraction pocket A collapsed area of the tympanic membrane into the middle ear or attic with a sharp demarcation from the remainder of the tympanic membrane
Tympanogram An objective measure of how easily the tympanic membrane vibrates and at what pressure it does so most easily (pressure-compliance function). If the middle ear is filled with fluid (eg, OME), vibration is impaired and the line will be flat. If the middle ear is filled with air but at a higher or lower pressure than the surrounding atmosphere, the peak on the graph will be shifted in position based on the pressure (to the left if negative, to the right if positive)

Management

...anagement...

...Summary of Guideline Key Action Statements (KAS)...

...Short DurationClinicians should not perform tymp...

...ng EvaluationClinicians should obtain a he...

...ateral OME with Hearing DifficultyClinic...

...ME with SymptomsClinicians may perf...

.... Surveillance of Chronic OMEClinicians...

...t AOM without MEEClinicians should not p...

...rent AOM with MEEClinicians should offer bila...

...ChildrenClinicians should determine if a child wit...

.... Tympanostomy Tubes in At-Risk ChildrenClinician...

...-term TubesThe clinician should no...

...Adjuvant AdenoidectomyClinicians may perform ad...

...Perioperative EducationIn the perioperative perio...

...rative Ear DropsClinicians should not routinel...

...ostomy Tube OtorrheaClinicians should pres...

...r PrecautionsClinicians should not encourage routi...

16. Follow-upThe surgeon or designee should e...


...parison of AOM With and Without a Tympanos...


Table 4. Comparison of Short-term vs. Long-ter...


...e 5. Saline Washout (Irrigation) to Prevent...


...Factors for Developmental Difficulties*...


...ed Questions for Assessing Hearing...


...tionship of the EarRelationship of the...


...ar Tubes(A) Size of tympanostomy tube compared...


.... Hearing LevelsAn average hearing level bet...


...and Tympanostomy TubesAOM without a ty...


...5. Normal Type A Tympanogram Resul...


Figure 6. Abnormal Type B Tympanogram Results(A)...


...Tissue SpearsAdapted from Centre fo...


...owchart Showing Key Action Statements and...


Patient Information

Patient Informatio...

...o if my child has frequent ear infections but no...

...receiving this information sheet?You are receivi...

...is middle ear fluid, also called effusion?When...

...t mean if my child has repeated ear infect...

...Are there any children who should still get ear t...

...What if my family doctor specifical...


Ear Tubes — A Caregiver's Guid...

...are ear tubes recommended?Ear tube...

2. How long will my child's ear tubes l...

...my child need to be seen again aft...

...are the possible complications, or prob...

...Does my child need ear plugs when ex...

...d ear infectionsEar tubes will help decrease the...

 

 

...ble reasons why my doctor or health care...

...o call the Ear Doctor (Otolaryngologist):...