Myringotomy: Procedure, Purpose and Complications

Page content

A myringotomy is also sometimes referred to as a tympanotomy, tympanostomy or an ear tube surgery. This surgical procedure is performed to remove fluids such as pus, blood or water from the middle ear by opening the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Many people who have these procedure will have a small tube placed into their middle ear to encourage and maintain further draining of any fluids. This procedure is most often performed in children because of an allergy or infection, but in less common cases it is performed on adults.

Purpose for This Procedure

The most common reason for this surgical procedure is to alleviate the symptoms caused by fluid build up. If symptoms do not get better after other non-surgical treatments are performed or if symptoms persist for more than three to six months, this procedure may be necessary. It may also be performed to obtain a fluid sample for laboratory analysis of microorganisms, to relieve the pain associated with an inflammation of the inner ear or to try and prevent fluid accumulation or frequent ear infections by placing tympanostomy tubes. It may also be performed on children to prevent hearing loss and to prevent speech problems such as delayed speech development.

Procedure Description

During a myringotomy the surgeon places a speculum into the outer ear canal and then places an operative microscope into position. After these instruments are in place the surgeon will carefully make a small incision into the eardrum. Once the incision is made any fluid that has built up is drained and a tube is inserted to allow drainage to continue. The incision most often heals on its own and no stitches are needed to close it. In most cases, both ears will be drained. Some surgeons will use lasers to create an opening in the eardrum. The actual surgery itself takes only fifteen to twenty minutes, however with prep and anesthesia it can take approximately sixty to ninety minutes. As long as the procedure goes as planned and no problems develop the patient will go home the same day.

Possible Complications

Since this is a surgical procedure there is a risk of complications. Complications such as excessive bleeding, need for repeat surgery, infection and the incision not healing properly can occur. In rare cases, hearing loss, formation of a benign cholesteatoma in the middle ear and injury to the eardrum or other ear structures may occur.


Most patients who have a myringotomy who do not experience any complications will be completely healed in approximately four weeks. Any pressure, pain or hearing loss caused by the built up fluid should be relieved. Ear tubes will typically fall out in approximately six to twelve months, but if they do not fall out surgery may be needed to remove them. In some cases, visible scarring may be present.


Rebeiz, E. MD. (2007). Myringotomy. Retrieved on August 20, 2009 from Website: