Tympanoplasty: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Tympanoplasty (say "tim-PAN-oh-plass-tee") is surgery to repair a hole in the eardrum. The surgery may have been done to improve hearing or to stop frequent ear infections that did not get better with other treatments.

You may feel dizzy for a few days after surgery. The cut (incision) the doctor made behind your ear may be sore, and you may have ear pain for about a week. Some bloody fluid may drain from your ear canal and the incision.

Your ear will probably feel blocked or stuffy. You may not be able to hear as well as before. This usually gets better as the eardrum heals and after the doctor takes the cotton or gauze packing out of the ear canal. The doctor will take out the packing 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.

Your stitches may dissolve on their own, or the doctor may need to take them out. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

It may take time before your hearing gets better. Your doctor will test your hearing after your ear has healed. This may be 8 to 12 weeks after surgery.

While you are healing, it is important to avoid getting water in your ear. You will also need to avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, and other activities that may put pressure on your eardrum. This includes flying in an airplane, swimming, scuba diving, or playing contact sports.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover. For the first week, sleep with your head up by using 2 or 3 pillows. You can also try to sleep with your head up in a reclining chair.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid sudden head movements and bending over for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery. These actions may make you dizzy.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for about 2 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For 2 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Do not fly in an airplane, swim, scuba dive, or play contact sports until your doctor says it is okay. These activities could prevent your eardrum from healing correctly.
  • Do not get water in your ear for 1 to 3 months, or until your doctor says it is okay. You can take baths, but do not shower or get water near your ear until the packing is removed. When you bathe, plug your ear with a cotton ball lightly coated in petroleum jelly to keep water out. Do not use plastic earplugs that go into the ear canal while you have packing in your ear. Use only the earplugs that your doctor recommends.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Most people are able to go back to work or their normal routine in about 1 to 2 weeks. But if your job requires strenuous activity or heavy lifting, you may need to take 2 to 4 weeks off.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • You may have a bandage over the incision. You can remove the bandage 1 or 2 days after surgery or when your doctor says it is okay.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incision behind your ear, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which may delay healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • Until your doctor says it is okay, do not blow your nose. If you need to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Open your mouth, and do not pinch your nose.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are very dizzy.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a fever over 38°C.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • Your hearing gets worse.
  • You have ringing in your ear that gets worse.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 29, 2016