Pressure equalization, or PE, tubes are tiny cylinders that are surgically placed through the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear. Dr. Alvarado, can you tell us about this procedure?
Sure, Dr. Connolly. Other names you may hear for PE tubes are ear tubes, tympanostomy tubes, or myringotomy tubes. These tubes can help normalize hearing and prevent recurring accumulation of fluid and infections in the middle ear.
PE tubes typically stay in place for six to 18 months before falling out on their own. Some tubes have flanges to secure them in place for a longer period of time before they fall out. In some cases, a provider may need to remove the PE tubes.
For the procedure, children are usually given a general anesthetic in an outpatient surgical setting. A breathing tube is not typically required.
The provider uses a special microscope to view the eardrum, and any earwax obstructing the view is carefully removed. A small incision is made in the front portion of the eardrum, and a small suction device is used to remove any fluid that has collected in the middle ear. If the fluid appears to be infected, your child may require antibiotic treatment following surgery.
Once the fluid has been removed from the middle ear, a PE tube is carefully placed through the incision. In most pediatric procedures, providers use short, grommet-shaped PE tubes. After the PE tubes have been properly positioned in the eardrums, the anesthetist awakens the child, and the child is transported to a recovery room.