Tympanoplasty in Children: What to Expect at Home

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Your Child's 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.

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

Your child's ear will probably feel blocked or stuffy. He or she 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 child's 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 child's hearing gets better. Your doctor will test your child's hearing after the ear has healed. This may be 8 to 12 weeks after surgery.

While your child is healing, it is important that water does not get in his or her ear. Your child will also need to avoid strenuous exercise and other activities that may put pressure on the eardrum. This includes flying in an airplane, swimming, or playing contact sports.

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

How can you care for your child at home?

Activity

  • See that your child rests when he or she feels tired. Getting enough sleep will help your child recover. For the first week, have your child sleep with his or her head up by using 2 or 3 pillows. Your child can also try to sleep with his or her head up in a reclining chair.
  • Try to have your child walk each day. Start by walking a little more than the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount your child walks. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Help your child avoid sudden head movements and bending over for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery. These actions may make your child dizzy.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games, or take part in gym class 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, do not let your child lift anything heavy. This may include a backpack, a larger dog, or a bicycle.
  • Do not let your child swim, play contact sports or fly in an airplane, until your doctor says it is okay. These activities could prevent the eardrum from healing correctly.
  • Be sure that water does not get in your child's ear for 1 to 3 months, or until your doctor says it is okay. Your child can take baths, but do not let your child shower. Do not let water get near your child's ear until the packing is removed. When your child bathes, plug the 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 your child has packing in the ear. Use only the earplugs that your doctor recommends.
  • Most children are able to go back to school or their normal routine in about 1 to 2 days. But they should not play hard or do things like sports for about 3 weeks.

Diet

  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If his or her stomach is upset, try giving your child bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse call line.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If your doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless your doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • If you think your child's pain medicine is making him or her sick to the stomach:
    • Give your child the medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • Your child 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 your child has strips of tape on the incision behind the ear, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • After you remove the bandage, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. 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 let your child blow his or her nose. If your child needs to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Tell your child to open his or her mouth and to not pinch the nose.

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

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughs up blood.

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

  • Your child bleeds through the bandage.
  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after taking pain medicine.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You notice changes in your child's hearing.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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Current as of: July 29, 2016