Michael T. Cecil, M.D., F.A.C.S., Lexington Clinic Otolaryngologist
Acute otitis media (middle ear infection) is one of the most common infections in childhood. In the U.S., approximately 70% of children experience acute ear infection prior to their second birthday. Risk factors predisposing this age group to ear infections include daycare attendance, bottle feeding (no history of breast-feeding), allergy and tobacco smoke contact. Obstruction of the eustachian tube is typically the ultimate factor that results in an ear infection.
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Ear tubes are commonly placed to bypass the dysfunction or obstruction of the eustachian tube. We generally consider placing ear tubes if your child has had repeated ear infections over a short period of time. Occasionally, a child will have fluid behind the eardrum that will persist for several months after an acute ear infection has resolved. If this fluid persists for up to 3 months, tubes are recommended as well.
Placement of ear tubes is typically a well tolerated procedure. In children, it is performed under general anesthesia, which is quite safe. The tubes typically remain in place for around 12 months, and most children experience a complete resolution in recurrent ear infections while the tubes are in place.