What are the general instructions and follow-up care?

An appointment for a follow-up ear check-up is usually arranged 14 to 28 days after the procedure. At this visit, the position and function of the tubes will be assessed.

Usually, eardrops will be given to you the day of surgery. The surgeon will often place the same drops in the ear following the placement of the tubes. They are usually used after surgery for three days (3-4 drops each ear 3 times per day). If there is drainage from the ear after three days, you may be instructed to continue using the drops until the day before your office visit or as per doctor’s instructions. Discontinue these drops if they cause severe pain or a skin rash.

You can “pump” them into the ear by pushing on the soft cartilage tissue located in front of the ear canal (medically termed the tragus).

Ear drainage may occur immediately after the procedure or at any time while the tubes are in place.

Yellow clear fluid or mucous may drain for several days to weeks after the surgery.

It is not unusual to see a bloody discharge following surgery. Cotton can be kept in the ear canal and changed as needed to keep dry.

If after the immediate post-operative period, profuse, foul-smelling discharge drains from the ear, an infection is the possible cause. If this occurs, begin by using eardrops for three days. If the drainage continues beyond three days, call the doctor to determine if additional medicine and/or an office visit is necessary.

Avoiding water for children with ear tubes or routine water precautions (wearing earplugs or headbands) is generally not recommended while tubes are in place with some exceptions. Water protection may be needed if pain results when the ears get wet, if there is prolonged drainage from the ear or for children who dive more than 6 feet under water, dunk their head in soapy bath tub water, or swim in areas other than chlorinated pools. There is an increased risk of infection in lake or pond water, as opposed to chlorinated water found in swimming pools. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding water precautions.

Tympanostomy tubes usually stay in place from 6 to 18 months. If they stay in longer than two to three years, they may need to be surgically removed. It is important to have an ear check-up about every six months during this period. An audiogram is usually obtained at some point after the ear has healed. The tubes eventually fall out of the eardrum as the ear heals. Some children may have mild discomfort or bloody drainage at this time. The small hole in the eardrum at the old tube site usually heals within several weeks. Your doctor will instruct you when it is safe to allow water in the ears.

In some cases, insertion of ear tubes must be repeated if the tubes fall out and symptoms recur.