Tympanoplasty

Alternative names
Eardrum repair

Definition

Eardrum repair is a procedure to correct a tear in the eardrum (tympanic membrane) or the small bones in the middle ear.

Ruptured or perforated eardrums are usually caused by middle ear infections or trauma, such as an object in the ear, a slap on the ear, or an explosion.

Description

Using general anesthesia, an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist grafts a small patch from a vein or fascia (muscle sheath) onto the eardrum to repair the tear.

For problems with the small bones (ossicles), the surgeon will use an operating microscope to view and repair this chain of small bones using plastic devices or ossicles from a donor.

Indications

If antibiotics or other nonoperative treatment do not heal chronic ear infections, surgical eardrum repair may be necessary.

Chronic middle ear infections are described as:

     
  • 7 or more ear infections in a year  
  • 5 or more ear infections per year for 2 years

Signs of chronic ear infections include persistent ear pain, ear drainage, or hearing loss (over a 3-month period).

Risks

Risks for any anesthesia are:

     
  • Reactions to medications  
  • Problems breathing

Risks for any surgery are:

     
  • Bleeding  
  • Infection

Additional risks include:

     
  • Incomplete healing of the hole in the eardrum  
  • Damage to the small bones in the middle ear, causing hearing loss  
  • Need for further surgery

Expectations after surgery
In most cases, the operation relieves pain and infection symptoms completely. Hearing loss is minor. The outcome may not be as good if the bones in the middle ear need reconstruction along with the eardrum.

Convalescence
Patients usually leave the hospital the same day as the surgery. It is important to avoid water in the ear. Your health care provider may recommend the use of a hair cap when showering for a few weeks after the procedure.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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