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myringotomy, myringotomy tubes
A myringotomy, sometimes called by other names, is a surgical procedure in which a tiny incision is created in the eardrum tympanic membrane to relieve pressure caused by excessive buildup of fluid, or to drain pus from the middle ear A tympanostomy tube is inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear aerated for a prolonged time and to prevent reaccumulation of fluid Without the insertion of a tube, the incision usually heals spontaneously in two to three weeks Depending on the type, the tube is either naturally extruded in 6 to 12 months or removed during a minor procedure1

Those requiring myringotomy usually have an obstructed or dysfunctional eustachian tube that is unable to perform drainage or ventilation in its usual fashion Before the invention of antibiotics, myringotomy without tube placement was also used as a major treatment of severe acute otitis media middle ear infection1


  • 1 Nomenclature
  • 2 History
  • 3 Indications
  • 4 Procedure
  • 5 Aftercare
  • 6 Complications
  • 7 Efficacy
  • 8 References
  • 9 See also


The words myringotomy, tympanotomy, tympanostomy, and tympanocentesis overlap in meaning The first two are always synonymous, and the third is often used synonymously2 The core idea with all of them is cutting a hole in the eardrum to allow fluid to pass through it Sometimes a distinction is drawn between myringotomy/tympanotomy and tympanostomy, in parallel with the general distinction between an -otomy cutting and an -ostomy creating a stoma with some degree of permanence or semipermanence In this distinction, only a tympanostomy involves tympanostomy tubes and creates a semipermanent stoma This distinction in usage is not always made The word tympanocentesis specifies that centesis aspiration for sampling is being done

Etymologically, myringotomy myringo-, from Latin myringa "eardrum",3 + -tomy and tympanotomy tympano- + -tomy both mean "eardrum cutting", and tympanostomy tympano- + -stomy means "making an eardrum stoma"


In 1649, Jean Riolan the Younger accidentally pierced a patient's ear drum while cleaning it with an ear spoon Surprisingly, the patient's hearing improved There are also reports from the 17th and 18th centuries describing separate experiments exploring the function of the ear drum4 In particular, the animal experiments of Thomas Willis were expanded upon by Sir Astley Cooper, who presented two papers to the Royal Society in 1801 on his observations that myringotomy could improve hearing First, he showed that two patients with perforations of both eardrums could hear perfectly well, despite conventional wisdom that this would result in deafness Second, he demonstrated that deafness caused by obstruction of the Eustachian tube could be relieved by myringotomy, which equalized the pressure on each side of the tympanic membrane

Widespread inappropriate use of the procedure later led to it falling out of use However, it was reintroduced by Hermann Schwartze in the 19th century An inherent problem became recognized, namely the tendency of the tympanic membrane to heal spontaneously and rapidly, reversing the beneficial effects of the perforation In order to prevent this, a tympanostomy tube, initially made of gold foil, was placed through the incision to prevent it from closing Ádám Politzer, a Hungarian-born otologist practicing in Vienna, experimented with rubber in 1886 The vinyl tube used today was introduced by Armstrong in 19545


Retracted ear drum

There are numerous indications for tympanostomy in the pediatric age group,16 the most frequent including chronic otitis media with effusion OME which is unresponsive to antibiotics, and recurrent otitis media Adult indications178 differ somewhat and include Eustachian tube dysfunction with recurrent signs and symptoms, including fluctuating hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, and a severe retraction pocket in the tympanic membrane Recurrent episodes of barotrauma, especially with flying, diving, or hyperbaric chamber treatment, may merit consideration


Myringotomy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure General anesthesia is preferred in children, while local anesthesia suffices for adults The ear is washed and a small incision made in the eardrum Any fluid that is present is then aspirated, the tube of choice inserted, and the ear packed with cotton to control any slight bleeding that might occur This is known as conventional or cold knife myringotomy and usually heals in one to two days9

A new variation called tympanolaserostomy or laser-assisted tympanostomy uses CO2 laser, and is performed with a computer-driven laser and a video monitor to pinpoint a precise location for the hole The laser takes one tenth of a second to create the opening, without damaging surrounding skin or other structures This perforation remains patent for several weeks and provides ventilation of the middle ear without the need for tube placement

Though laser myringotomies maintain patency slightly longer than cold-knife myringotomies two to three weeks for laser and two to three days for cold knife without tube insertion,10 they have not proven to be more effective in the management of effusion One randomized controlled study found that laser myringotomies are safe but less effective than ventilation tube in the treatment of chronic OME11 Multiple occurrences in children, a strong history of allergies in children, the presence of thick mucoid effusions, and history of tympanostomy tube insertion in adults, make it likely that laser tympanostomy will be ineffective9

Various tympanostomy tubes are available Traditional metal tubes have been replaced by more popular silicon, titanium, polyethylene, gold, stainless steel, or fluoroplastic tubes More recent ones are coated with antibiotics and phosphorylcholine


There is little scientific evidence to guide the care of the ear after tubes have been inserted A single, randomized trial found statistical benefit to using ear protective devices when swimming although the size of the benefit was quite small12 In the absence of strong evidence, general opinion has been against the use of ear protection devices However, protection such as cotton covered with petroleum jelly, ear plugs, or ear putty is recommended for swimming in dirty water lakes, rivers, oceans, or non-chlorinated pools to prevent ear infections For bathing, shampooing, or surface-water swimming in chlorinated pools, no ear protection is recommended


The placement of tubes is not a cure If middle ear disease has been severe or prolonged enough to justify tube placement, there is a strong possibility that the child will continue to have episodes of middle ear inflammation or fluid collection There may be early drainage through the tube tube otorrhea in about 15% of patients in the first two weeks after placement, and developing in 25% more than three months after insertion, although usually not a longterm problem13 Otorrhea is considered to be secondary to bacterial colonization The most commonly isolated organism is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, while the most troublesome is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA Some practitioners use topical antibiotic drops in the postoperative period, but research shows that this practice does not eradicate the bacterial biofilm1 A laboratory study showed that tubes covered in the antibiotic vancomycin prevented in-vitro formation of MRSA biofilm as compared to noncoated ones,14 although no study has been conducted on humans yet Comparing phosphorylcholine-coated fluoroplastic tympanostomy tubes to uncoated fluoroplastic tympanostomy tubes showed no statistically significant difference in the incidence of post-operative otorrhea, tube blockage, or extrusion15

Other early common complications are dislodgement or obstruction of the tube, while late complications include deposition of fat or dead cells, cholesteatoma, or thinning or persistent perforation of the tympanic membranecitation needed


Evidence suggests that tympanostomy tubes only offer a short-term hearing improvement in children with simple OME who have no other serious medical problems No effect on speech and language development has yet been shown16

A retrospective study of success rates in 96 adults and 130 children with otitis media treated with CO2 laser myringotomy showed about a 50% cure rate at six months in both groups9 To date, there have been no published systematic reviews

Balloon dilation eustachian tuboplasty BDET, a new treatment, has proven to be effective in treating OME secondary to eustachian tube dysfunction171819 However, the number of patients in the studies cited, 22 and 8 respectively and 18 in the tympanometric study, is extremely small and simply points to the need for large, well-controlled studies


  1. ^ a b c d e Smith N, Greinwald JR 2011 "To tube or not to tube: indications for myringotomy with tube placement" Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery 19 5: 363–366 PMID 21804383 doi:101097/MOO0b013e3283499fa8 
  2. ^ Elsevier, Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, Elsevier 
  3. ^ "myringotomy" Mosby's Medical Dictionary 8th ed Elsevier 2009 
  4. ^ Brusis T, Luckhaupt H March 1995 "Der Trommelfellstich: Zur Geschichte von Parazentese und Paukenröhrchen" Perforation of the ear drum On the history of paracentesis and grommet insertion Laryngo-Rhino-Otologie in German 75 3: 178–83 PMID 8652036 doi:101055/s-2007-997559 
  5. ^ Rimmer J, Giddings CE, Weir N October 2007 "History of myringotomy and grommets" The Journal of Laryngology and Otology 121 10: 911–6 PMID 17559714 doi:101017/S0022215107009176 
  6. ^ American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery; American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Otitis Media With Effusion May 2004 "Otitis media with effusion" Pediatrics 113 5: 1412–29 doi:101542/peds11351412 
  7. ^ Kisser U, Gürkov R, Louza J, Schrötzlmair F, Adderson-Kisser C, Krause E 2012 "Comparison of characteristic of titanium and fluoropastic ventilation tubes in adults with healthy middle ears" Otology & Neurotology 33 6: 983–987 PMID 22772000 doi:101097/MAO0b013e318259b70b 
  8. ^ "Ear tube insertion" MedlinePlus US National Library of Medicine 
  9. ^ a b c Chang CW, Yang YW, Fu CY, Shiao AS January 2012 "Differences between children and adults with otitis media with effusion treated with CO2 laser myringotomy" Journal of the Chinese Medical Association 75 1: 29–35 PMID 22240534 doi:101016/jjcma201110001 
  10. ^ Prokopakis EP, Hajiioannou JK, Velegrakis GA, Christodoulou PN, Scordalakis C, Helidonis ES Feb 25, 2002 "Duration of patency of laser-assisted tympanic membrane fenestration" Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 62 3: 207–14 PMID 11852122 
  11. ^ Koopman JP, Reuchlin AG, Kummer EE, Boumans LJ, Rijntjes E, Hoeve LJ, Mulder PG, Blom HM 2004 "Laser myringotomy versus ventilation tubes in children with otitis media with effusion: a randomized trial" Laryngoscope 114 5: 844–9 PMID 15126741 doi:101097/00005537-200405000-00010 
  12. ^ Goldstein NA, Mandel EM, Kurs-Lasky M, Rockette HE, Casselbrandt ML 2005 "Water precautions and tympanostomy tubes: a randomized, controlled trial" Laryngoscope 115 2: 324–30 PMID 15689760 doi:101097/01mlg000015474233067fb 
  13. ^ Kay DJ, Nelson M, Rosenfeld RM April 2001 "Meta-analysis of tympanostomy tube sequelae" Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 124: 374–80 PMID 11283489 doi:101067/mhn2001113941 
  14. ^ Jang CH, Park H, Cho YB, Choi CH 2010 "Effect of vancomycin-coated tympanostomy tubes on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation: In vitro study" The Journal of Laryngology & Otology 124 6: 594–598 PMID 20056010 doi:101017/S0022215109992672 
  15. ^ Hong P, Smith N, Johnson LB, Corsten G 2011 "A randomized double-blind controlled trial of phosphorylcholine-coated tympanostomy tube versus standard tympanostomy tube in children with recurrent acute and chronic otitis media" Laryngoscope 121 1: 214–219 PMID 21072756 doi:101002/lary21156 
  16. ^ Browning GG, Rovers MM, Williamson I, Lous J, Burton MJ 2010 "Grommets ventilation tubes for hearing loss associated with otitis media with effusion in children" Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 10: CD001801 PMID 20927726 doi:101002/14651858CD001801pub3 
  17. ^ McCoul ED, Anand VK May–June 2012 "Eustachian tube balloon dilation surgery" International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology 2 3: 191–8 PMID 22253073 doi:101002/alr21007 
  18. ^ Ockermann T, Reineke U, Upile T, Ebmeyer J, Sudhoff HH July 2010 "Balloon dilatation eustachian tuboplasty: a clinical study" Laryngoscope 120 7: 1411–6 PMID 20564474 doi:101002/lary20950 
  19. ^ Williams, Blair; Taylor, Benjamin A; Clifton, Neil; Bance, Manohar 12 February 2016 "Balloon dilation of the eustachian tube: a tympanometric outcomes analysis" Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery BioMed Central 45 13 ISSN 1916-0216 doi:101186/s40463-016-0126-6 Retrieved 26 January 2017 

See alsoedit

  • Myringoplasty
  • Otitis media
  • List of surgeries by type

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