What are the options for a child with recurrent ear effusion (fluid) ? This is a decision faced by millions of families.
Ear tube surgery may not be the correct choice :
Here are the findings of a systematic review of 40 studies :
- In children with chronic effusion, hearing improves over a short period of time.
- Ear tube surgery is less likely to improve cognitive / functional development long-term.
According to Michael Steiner, chief of pediatrics at UNC School of Medicine :
“Surgery can certainly help ease pain associated with ear pressure changes in the middle ear. It even improves hearing in the short term. We found no evidence that surgical intervention improves longer-term hearing, speech, language, or other functional outcomes in normally developing children.”
Ear tube surgery can cause hearing loss :
Dutch researchers followed 358 children with ear infections at a young age. The study ended when they reached age 18. Hearing tests were then done at various frequencies :
- The ones with ear tubes had 4 to 9 dB less hearing than the control group
- Also, ear drum damage was found in many of the children
- Scar tissue can form also in the inner ear canal.
- Persistent drainage or bleeding is possible
- Ear drum may fail to close after the tube is removed
The Numbers :
About 670,000 ear tube surgeries (myringotomy) are performed each year. These are in children under the age of 15. It is the most common outpatient surgery on kids in the US.
By the age of 3 , about one in 15 kids has this operation, with general anesthesia.
Looking for further details on this problem ? Here is an article that outlines Ear Tube facts.