Eardrum repair is performed for a hole in the eardrum, called a perforation.
The most common reason is perforation caused by infection, injury, or previous placement of tubes.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
The main purpose of repairing holes in the eardrum is to protect the sensitive part of the ear behind the eardrum. In this sense, perforation repair is primarily a safety issue. People who have holes in their eardrum usually suffer some degree of hearing loss. They often undergo surgery to try to correct this problem.
How is the procedure performed?
This surgery is done under general anesthesia. There are several ways to repair a hole in the eardrum. If the hole is small, its edges are removed. A graft is placed through the hole and positioned such that all the edges of the perforation are in contact with the underlying graft. The graft may be obtained from fat, fascia (a tough covering over a muscle) or a variety of synthetic materials. Blood vessels from the fresh edges of the hole grow into the graft. The graft then becomes incorporated into the eardrum.
What happens right after the procedure?
The person usually has soft packing material inside their ear canal after the procedure. After 1 or 2 hours of recovery time, people can usually go home. Someone else should drive the person home. This is because the pain medicines given can affect a person's ability to drive.
What happens later at home?
Pain and bleeding are usually mild. No changes in activity or diet are needed following the procedure. However, the person must keep water out of their ear. Also, the person must not blow his or her nose, as this might dislodge the graft. Antibiotics may be prescribed and pain relievers should be taken as needed. Corticosteroid and antibiotic eardrops are often used to keep the ear canal free of infection. The drops also keep the packing in the ear canal moist so it can be easily removed later on. Plane flights and altitude changes need to be avoided for several weeks after the surgery.
What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Any surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to whatever pain medicines may have been given. The main complication specific to this surgery is a disturbance in taste. This may happen if the nerve running directly behind the eardrum is injured. This nerve brings taste information to the tongue. As with any ear surgery, there are also the risks of dizziness and nerve deafness. Eardrum repair is not always successful. For eardrum repair, success means both closing the hole and restoring normal hearing. Closing the eardrum is the primary goal because it protects the ear. Hearing is usually tested before and after surgery. Success depends on the size of the area to be repaired, and whether or not there are problems with other parts of the ear. If both eardrums are perforated, the success rate is lower.