In-Office Tubes

Ear infections in children – What you need to know

Ear infections are one of the most common infections in children under 5 years of age. An ear infection deep in the ear, behind the ear drum, is called Otitis Media. This type of ear infection is the most common diagnosis in children in the United States. 75% of children will have experienced an ear infection by the time they are 3 years of age, many will suffer multiple infections over their first few years of life.

Otitis media is more common in the winter and spring, when children spend time in daycare, or after having a common cold. There are many other risk factors that you and your physician may discuss. When children suffer from these infections, it is helpful for parents to understand why this problem occurs, and options to improve the infections in the future.

Oklahoma Sinus Center

Why is Otitis Media so common for my child?

Otitis media (often called middle ear infections) directly relates to a poorly functioning eustachian tube. The eustachian tube is a small canal that connects the back of the nose to the small space deep behind the ear drum. For infants and toddlers, the eustachian tube is not able to function as well as it does in older children, young adults, and adults. When this tube works properly, the ear is able to equalize pressure, drain fluid from the middle ear, and help protect against bacterial infection in the middle ear. For infants and younger children, the eustachian tube does not function efficiently as part of normal development. As children grow, the eustachian tube will progressively take on better function. Most children will outgrow ear infections by the time they reach school age. Until that happens, many children may suffer from recurrent infections, chronic fluid in the ear, hearing loss related to the fluid, and speech development problems.

Symptoms that are often associated with middle ear infections (Otitis Media)

  • Fever
  • Poor sleep
  • Fussiness
  • Pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pulling at the ears
  • Inconsolable
  • Hearing loss

How best to manage ear infections in children

Medical management

Many episodes of otitis media will resolve spontaneously over 48 to 72 hours, even without therapy from a physician. Many families choose to treat with antibiotic therapy to more quickly improve symptoms of discomfort. When symptoms persist, when infection won’t respond, when fluid in the ear won’t drain, or when medical management doesn’t work, parents can feel desperate for a solution.

Ear tubes

How tubes work
Ear tube surgery (myringotomy) is a procedure for Otitis Media where a tiny opening is made in the eardrum. Through this small opening, any fluid (usually infectious or thickened secretions) can be suctioned and removed. After fluid has been evacuated from the ear, a small plastic tube (tympanostomy tube) is placed into the opening and seated in place in the ear drum. This small tube stays in place for about 6 months to 2 years. While it remains in the ear drum, it provides ongoing fluid drainage, resolution of hearing loss related to retained fluid, and a substantial reduction in the number of ear infections. In the future, these small tubes will slowly fall off of the eardrum, and into the ear canal. They will usually fall out of the ear naturally with ear wax.

How Ear Tubes Work | OK Sinus Center

How is the procedure performed?
The procedure to place tubes in a child’s ear is usually very brief. The entire procedure may last from 2 to 5 minutes on average. Children can be briefly sedated by an anesthesiologist, in an outpatient surgical facility. Dr. Steven Richards offers tube placement as an in-office procedure, under topical anesthesia. This minimally invasive approach can save time and expense, and is preferred by many parents.


Managing Ear Infections for Children | Oklahoma Sinus Center
Ear Tubes | Oklahoma Sinus Center
Middle Ear Infection | Oklahoma Sinus Center

Are ear tubes the right decision for you and your child?

Infections may still occur intermittently when tubes are in place, but parents frequently notice a dramatic reduction in the number of ear infections. Parent frequently notice their child has less pain in the ear as the infectious fluid can now easily drain. In addition, it is common to use less oral antibiotics and to utilize topical antibiotic drops, which have fewer side effects. With a reduction in the number of infections, most parents see an overall reduction in the number of visits to the pediatrician related to infections.

Tube placement in children often leads to the following:

  • Reduction in the number of ear infections
  • Reduction in the number of ear infections
  • Restoration of hearing related to chronic fluid retention in the ears
  • Improvement in speech patterns and speech development related to retained fluid
  • Improvement in sleep and dietary intake issues related to ear infections

What are the benefits of having the procedure performed as an in-office procedure?

When parents choose to place tubes as an in-office procedure, they should be aware that the procedure is identical to the procedure used to place tubes in an outpatient surgical facility. The only difference in the procedure is the type of anesthesia used. When the procedure is performed in the office, a small liquid anesthetic is placed on the ear drum. This anesthetic allows the tube to be gently placed while a child is awake, without any form of sedation. When tube insertion is performed in a surgical facility, general anesthesia is used to reduce pain while the tubes are inserted.

When tube insertion is performed as an in-office procedure, families enjoy the following benefits:

  • Quick office visit
  • No dietary restriction before general anesthesia on the day of surgery
  • Dramatic reduction in expense
  • Faster procedure times
  • No IV placement
  • Avoids all risks of general anesthesia
  • Avoids nausea and the other effects of general anesthesia
  • Minimal pain during and after the procedure

Taking the next step

Let us work with you and your pediatrician to help create a brighter future for your child. Call for an appointment today to discuss options for tube insertion as an in-office procedure. 

Are you considering surgical treatment options for pediatric sinus surgery?

Contact Oklahoma Sinus Center today to schedule an evaluation.