The ear is a delicate organ. When chronic ear infections, cancer, or cholesteatoma affect the eardrum (tympanic membrane) or small bones behind the eardrum (ossicles), chronic infection, pain, or hearing loss may result. A surgical procedure, called tympanoplasty, may be necessary to repair the eardrum and restore or replace the ossicles.
Tympanoplasty is performed under general anesthesia by an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist. An incision is either made in the ear (endaural), in the ear canal (trascanal), or behind the ear (postauricular). During the procedure, the ENT grafts a small piece of muscle sheath, known as fascia, into place as a replacement for the eardrum. If necessary, the ossicles are replaced with artificial bones or bones from the patient, if possible.
Tympanoplasty typically takes 1 to 3 hours, depending on how extensive the procedure is and the type of incision that is used. Patients usually leave the hospital the same day with specific post-surgical care instructions. These may include not allowing water into the ear and caring for stitches.
Tympanoplasty carries the same risks as any other surgical procedure. Bleeding, infections, reactions to medications, or problems breathing may occur and any prior illnesses, medications or reactions to anesthesia should be discussed with your doctor. Every surgery comes with risk. Risks particular to tympanoplasty include damage to the facial nerve, an incomplete healing of the eardrum, or damage to the ossicles causing dizziness. In rare cases, total hearing loss may occur when ossicles are reconstructed.
In most cases, tympanoplasty relieves pain and infection of the eardrum completely. The likelihood of tympanoplasty failure increases with infection during the healing period, the graft shifting, or water entering the ear. Most patients experience complete healing in three to four months.
Dr. Camysha Wright is a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. She is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and specializes in the evaluation and treatment of areas of concern affecting the ears, nose, and throat. For more information regarding tympanoplasty or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Wright, contact her office today at 954-368-8519.