A myringotomy is a procedure to put a hole in the eardrum. This is done so that fluid or infection trapped in the middle ear can drain out. The fluid may be blood, pus, and/or water. In most cases, a small tube is inserted into the hole in the eardrum. The tube helps to maintain drainage.
A myringotomy may be done to:
After the procedure, pain and/or pressure in the ear due to fluid build-up should be alleviated. Hearing loss due to fluid build-up should improve as well.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
General anesthesia is most often used. You will be asleep. In some cases, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the ear.
A small microscope is placed in position to give the doctor a better view. A tiny incision will be made in the eardrum. Fluid from the middle ear will then be drained. In most cases, a small tube will be inserted and left in place. This will allow the drainage to continue.
No stitches will be used to close the incision. The incision will heal itself. The procedure is often done on both ears. Some doctors may use a laser beam to make the opening in the eardrum.
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The surgery will last about 15–20 minutes.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. Lidocaine ear drops may also be given to decrease pain.
Home care may include:
If ear tubes are inserted, you may feel popping, pulsation, clicking, or minor pain when burping, chewing, or yawning until the ear heals around the tubes. Complete healing without complications should occur within 4 weeks. If ear tubes were inserted, they typically fall out within 6-12 months. In some cases, surgery to remove the ear tubes may be necessary. Most eardrums heal normally after tubes come out, but visible scarring is not unusual.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the care center. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
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Myringotomy and PE tubes. Baylor College of Medicine Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Communicative Sciences website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/center-hearing-balance/procedures/myringotomy-pe-tubes. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Myringotomy and Tubes. The University of Chicago Children's Hospital website. Available at:
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Accessed August 29, 2017.
Otitis media with effusion. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115313/Otitis-media-with-effusion . Updated September 18, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Rosenfeld RM, Schwartz SR, Pynnonen MA, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Tympanostomy tubes in children—executive summary. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;149(1):8-16.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 9/30/2013