Myringotomy

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.

A myringotomy is performed to relieve pressure buildup in the middle ear, usually due to chronic middle ear infections which are resistant to other treatments. There may also be excessive fluid present due to severe allergies.

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

While a myringotomy is considered an extremely safe procedure, there are risks involved in any type of surgery. Risks of surgery in general may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medications

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.

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