Same Day Ear Tubes
UW Health's pediatric otolaryngologists in Madison, Wisconsin, provide a wide range of general and specialized care, and are specifically trained in the care of pediatric ear, nose and throat conditions.
If your child has frequent ear infections, ear tubes may be an appropriate treatment option. At American Family Children's Hospital, our Same Day Ear Tubes program allows children who meet criteria to be seen by a pediatric otolaryngology provider and receive their ear tube surgery all in one visit (see details and criteria for same day ear tubes below).
A Bit About Ear Infections
An ear infection, or otitis media, is caused by inflammation of the middle ear space – the area behind the eardrum. It is one of the most common reasons for health care visits, and will affect nearly 80% of children by age 3. Ear infections can be very painful. Other symptoms may include:
- Decreased hearing
- Pulling at the ears
- Poor sleep
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor balance
In addition, children with long-lasting middle ear fluid build-up may have delayed speech development related to decreased hearing. Learn more about ear infections (otitis media)
Treatment for Ear Infections
Depending on the age of your child, treatment of ear infections may be either watchful waiting or prescription antibiotic medicines. Most ear infections will clear with one course of antibiotics. However, some may take more than one antibiotic to resolve, or even fail to clear despite using antibiotics as directed. In this case, your child may be a candidate for ear tubes.
When Are Ear Tubes Recommended?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends ear tube placement for any of these situations:
- Child has had more than 3 ear infections in the past 6 months
- Child has had more than 4 ear infections in the past 12 months
- Child has had middle ear fluid lasting 3 months or longer and causing hearing loss
Ear Tube Insertion Procedure
Ear tube insertion is the most common surgery for children, with nearly 1 million pairs of tubes placed each year in the United States. Ear tubes are temporary and usually fall out on their own in 6-18 months. In those few patients whose tubes are still in place after 3 years, they may need to be removed.
Tubes are placed with the child briefly asleep after breathing general anesthesia vapor. Breathing tubes and IVs are usually not needed for this surgery. Using a microscope, the ear, nose and throat surgeon (otolaryngologist) cleans the ear of wax until the entire ear drum is visible. A small cut or myringotomy is made in the ear drum. Any fluid present in the middle ear space is removed with a small suction tube. The ear tube, or tympanostomy tube, is then placed through the cut in the ear drum, and the process done again on the other ear. The child is awakened and brought to the recovery room where parents are able to join them.
Your child may experience mild discomfort immediately after tube placement. This can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol™) or ibuprofen as needed. To help keep the tube open during healing, your child will be placed on ear drops 3 times daily for 3 days. Your child will be seen in the otolaryngology clinic 1-2 months after surgery to recheck hearing, and then every 6 months to re-check the ears and tubes.
Potential Risks and Complications
The most common risks in surgery are bleeding, infection, pain and risk of general anesthesia. These risks are very low for ear tube insertion. There is a chance ear infections will come back after the tubes fall out, meaning a second set of tubes may be needed. There is a small chance of a hole in the ear drum that does not heal after the tube comes out, and may need to be repaired with another surgery later on. Lastly, there is a possibility the ear tubes may cause ear drainage. If this does not clear up, the tubes may need to be removed.
Same Day Ear Tubes
Repeated ear infections and ear fluid can be a very painful problem. The Same Day Ear Tubes program allows children who meet criteria to be seen by a pediatric otolaryngology provider and receive their ear tube surgery all in one visit. The goal of this program is to reduce the need for further antibiotics, decrease healthcare visits, limit missed days of school and work, and ultimately, get kids back to being happy and healthy.
Criteria for the Same Day Ear Tubes Program
- Child is age 6 months - 12 years
- Child has had:
- More than 3 ear infections in the past 6 months – OR –
- More than 4 ear infections in the past 12 months – OR –
- Middle ear fluid lasting 3 months or longer
- Child is otherwise healthy and has no other medical conditions that may increase the risk of general anesthesia
- Child does not have any other ear, nose or throat problems (chronic stuffy nose, sinus infections, snoring, sleep apnea, etc.)
- Parents or guardians are interested in ear tube placement