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Health Team

Surgery can help children with chronic ear infections

Posted November 16, 2012 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2012 7:14 p.m. EST

Daniel Smith was a happy and curious child, but after starting day care at about 4 months of age, he wasn't as happy.

"The constant respiratory illnesses, he just stayed congested," Daniel's mother Jennifer Durand-Smith said. "That was ripe for getting infected over and over again."

Daniel suffered chronic ear infections.

Fluid fails to drain out of the eustachian tube. Besides being painful, it can hinder speech development.

"It's as if their ears are muffled or underwater," Dr. John Garside of Rex Ear, Nose and Throat said.

Garside said antibiotics help most children get through the episode. But when there's a pattern of recurrent infections or infections never resolve, surgery to place a tube in the ear drum is an option.

"We opted to do them after the fourth ear infection because I didn't want him on antibiotics over and over," Durand-Smith said.

The surgery is completed with the child under sedation.

"We make a less-than-1 millimeter incision in their ear drum," Garside said. "If there's fluid behind the ear drum, we can evacuate it out with a small vacuum."

Then a tube is placed in the incision.

"The actual procedure took like 10 minutes," Durand-Smith said. "Once he didn't have fluid behind his ear drums all the time, his language development took off."

Durand-Smith says it's made all the difference for Daniel.