What Parents Need to Know When Your Child Is Having Ear Tube Surgery


I really didn’t know what to expect when my little one was going to have tubes put in his ears.  I had heard about many other children getting the procedure done (called myringotomy), but I didn’t really know all the details surrounding the day of the surgery itself.

My youngest child had recurring ear infections (otitis media).  I lost count of how many (I believe we were up to eight that we knew about in less than a year).  It seemed like he was constantly on antibiotics, sampling every different kind out there.  It was a vicious cycle of ear infection, antibiotics, diarrhea from antibiotics, terrible diaper rash from diarrhea, medication done, then another ear infection started.   The ear infections affected his speech as well.  When we found out that putting tubes in may help, we decided to do it.  I knew it was a relatively simple procedure that was done all the time for children.  Luke is almost two and we are glad we had the procedure done.  However, I didn’t know some of the struggles we might encounter on the day of the surgery.

The Poking and The Prodding

There is a lot of poking and prodding both before and after surgery.  The nurses had to monitor his vital signs, take his temperature, blood pressure, and prepare him for the anesthetic. It was a struggle to get him to do any of these things.  He was irritable and hungry from having to fast and he kept telling the nurses to “Go ‘way!”  He also continually attempted to rip off the IV with incessant toddler determination.  He simply did not want it taped to his hand.  It was a bit of a battle.

The Waiting

The actual surgical procedure only takes ten or fifteen minutes I believe, but you can expect to be at the hospital for three to four hours.  We were asked to be there an hour an a half before surgery time.  He was not allowed to eat or drink anything so thankfully he had an early appointment.  After the surgery there is considerable time spent waking up, finishing the IV, and being monitored before heading home.

Bring something to distract your child or keep him/her entertained.  Thank goodness for Nana and her iPad.  Luke was distracted by Thomas the Train and videos about Santa before and after the surgery.  He also had his favourite blanket for comfort.

The Waking up Process

As his mother, this was my least favourite part.  For some reason, I had no problem handing him off to the nurse for surgery as he was screaming and crying.  I think it was because I had already mentally prepared myself that it would be hard and willed myself not to cry.  I can see how that might be the most difficult part for a parent.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the waking up process. I was anxious to see my little peanut after his first surgery but when they handed him to me it was not the pleasant reunion I had hoped for.  He was crying and moaning non-stop for a long time.  I think I asked the nurse a few times if this was normal and she assured me it was.  Every now and again he would partially open his eyes and I would say “Mommy is here…” thinking this was it and he was waking up.  Then his eyes would roll back into his head like a creepy demon child from a horror movie and he would go back to moaning and crying.  This went on and on for an uncomfortably long time.  Just when I was thought my child would never wake up and I was imagining something was terribly wrong and thinking all the terrible thoughts a mother could think, he stopped crying and woke up.

After Care

There was a little blood on his ears after surgery which is normal.  Once fully awake and distracted, he drank his milk and had a cookie while watching videos.  By the time we left the hospital, he was himself again.  The next day you would not even have guessed that he just had surgery.  He bounced back like nothing had happened.  Children really are resilient.

The only tricky part now is protecting his ears from water.  He is not much of a swimmer yet, but he loves his bath.  I was able to purchase a bath visor for rinsing the shampoo without getting water in his ears.  He will get used to it in time.

Please share this blog with any parents who may be considering ear tube surgery for their child.  I find it helps to know what to expect from other parents who have been through something similar.  All the best!

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