Pearls Of Wisdom

Posts for tag: pediatrics

By Mark T. Brown, MD, FACS
December 18, 2013
Category: Healthcare


Many kids get ear infections, especially in the winter with cold and flu season. A small percentage of kids don’t just get one or two, though. They get a lot. Or they have fluid behind the ear drum that won’t go away. That is when your pediatrician sends you to a place like Great Hills ENT to talk about tubes.

Let’s talk about ears before we start to plan surgery though. The middle ear is the space behind the ear drum. It should connect up to the back of the nose through the Eustachian tube. The purpose of this tube is to drain fluid from behind the ear drum and allow air to fill that space. When you yawn and swallow the throat muscles pull open the end of the Eustachian tube and air moves in and out of the space behind the ear. We call this equalizing because the air pressure in the middle ear should match the atmosphere. Think of taking off on a plane. As the plane rises the air pressure drops and you have to “pop” you ears to equalize them. 

Kids who are sick have a lot of swelling in that tiny little tube so it doesn’t open and close well. The pressure isn’t equalized and the fluid doesn’t drain. Bacteria love to grow in the fluid. Viola! Ear infection.

Tubes work by acting in the place of the Eustachian tube, except that they connect the middle ear to the outside world through the ear drum, not behind from the throat. They keep a little hole open that allows the air pressure to stay equal to the astmosphere. No fluid, no infection. Viola!

Side benefit, kids with tubes who don’t have fluid behind the ear drum hear better – critical for language development and success in school. Also, if there does happen to be an ear infection, antibiotic ear drops are usually all you need. No more yucky oral medicines and all of the problems that come with them.

The surgery, yes it is surgery, can be done on adults in the office. Most kids squirm too much for us to be able place tubes while they are awake. So the 5 minute (you read that right FIVE MINUTE) procedure is done in the OR with them breathing a little gas. Home after that in 15 to 20 minutes. The next day you are back on your usual schedule. Except you might not have to see your pediatrician so often for ear infections.

Bottom line: when a kid needs tubes they are great. Really.


Mark T. Brown, MD, FACS

Dr. Mark Brown is an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist at Great Hills ENT in Austin, TX. Dr. Brown is Board Certified in both Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery as well as Sleep Medicine. Great Hills ENT serves the greater Austin area including Georgetown, Cedar Park, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Steiner Ranch, Lakeway, Spicewood and Point Venture. We are proud to provide excellent care to our patients for general Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services, hearing loss, dizziness/vertigo and sleep disorders.