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Pressure Equalization (PE) Tube Procedure

For PE tube placement, young children are usually given a general anesthetic in an outpatient surgical setting. Insertion of a breathing tube is generally not required.

After the patient is under a comfortable level of anesthesia, the eardrum is viewed using a special microscope. Any wax that obstructs the view of the eardrum is carefully removed and the eardrum is thoroughly inspected.

A small incision is then made in the front portion of the eardrum to avoid injury to the ossicles — the three small bones in the middle ear. The incision is called a “myringotomy.” A small suction device is used to remove any fluid that has collected in the middle ear space. Keep in mind, if infected fluid is found, your child may require antibiotic treatment after surgery.

Once the fluid has been removed from the middle ear space, a PE tube is carefully placed through the incision, using small instruments.

There are many types of PE tubes. The tubes can be made out of various materials and may have a coating on them intended to reduce the possibility of infection. Two major types of tubes include:

  • Short, grommet-shaped tubes, and
  • Long, T-shaped tubes

Grommet-shaped tubes are used most often in pediatric procedures, especially if it’s the first set of PE tubes inserted in the child’s ears. Grommet-shaped tubes generally remain in place for 12 months. T-shaped tubes may remain in place for several years.

If your child is receiving a second or third set of PE tubes, your healthcare team may recommend removal of the adenoids at the same time. Discuss this option with your healthcare provider, prior to the procedure.

After the PE tubes have been properly positioned in the eardrum and the procedure is complete, the patient is awakened by the anesthetist and transported to the recovery room. Your child will be carefully monitored by the healthcare team during recovery.