Ear tubes…when are they necessary? That answer may now change…
Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses…and placement of ear tubes is one of the most common pediatric surgeries. There are now new guidelines that will help parents and doctors decide if tubes are really the correct treatment!
Recently there have been new guidelines published for the use of ear tubes in children suffering from ear infections. I say new guidelines, but the correct statement really is FINALLY a set of guidelines. As of July 1st, 2013 there is now a set of evidenced based guidelines on WHEN to place ear tubes. This surgery is a very common pediatric surgery with 670,000 done last year. It is amazing that this common childhood surgery has never had a set of firm evidence based guidelines to determine when tubes are necessary and how successful the placement of the ear tubes really is! Ear infections are very common, and can be miserable for both parents and children, but treatment that is either not effective or not needed is not the fix. Over the years there have been several changes in the recommended treatment of ear infections in children. Gone are the days that every child gets the “pink medicine” to treat an ear infection, we often will watch and wait now. Now it seems that some of the traditional thought on ear tube placement might also change with the new evidence. Some of the new guidelines may be surprising to medical professionals and parents, and I suspect will be met with some resistance as change often is. The point to remember is that the guidelines are based on research…that means they have some meat to them! As a parent, I would want to have some guideline to help me and my doctor decide if there would truly be a benefit in the surgery to place ear tubes for my child. The guidelines are from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the surgeons who would be performing this surgery on your child. One of the guidelines that may be surprising is that ear tubes should NOT be placed in a child that has recurrent ear infections UNLESS there is chronic fluid in the ears, meaning that fluid would be present for 3 months or longer. All children should have a hearing test before tubes are placed too. Children with chronic fluid in the ears should be evaluated every 3 to 6 months until it is resolved or further treatment is warranted. Another new recommendation that will make life easier for many parents is that no longer will a child with ear tubes need to wear ear plugs to keep water out of ears!
As parents the most important thing to remember before a decision to place tubes in a child’s ears is made or any other medical treatment decision is made for that matter is to ask questions….lots of them. Be informed and make sure that the procedure will provide benefits that outweighs the risks. Medical providers need to be able to give you evidence based answers on why something is recommended for your child…questions are your right and your responsibility as a parent. Remember, your child’s health care is a team effort…and you are a very important part of that team.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.