An eardrum repair or tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure to fix a damaged eardrum. Known as the tympanic membrane, the eardrum is an important part of the ear. Damage to this structure can result in hearing loss, recurrent ear infections, and other problems. This procedure can be recommended for the treatment of a number of different conditions. It is performed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
One reason to perform an eardrum repair is a perforation. The ear drum can be perforated as a result of chronic infections, trauma, congenital conditions, or the placement of drains used to treat infections. Doctors will usually recommend a wait and see approach for perforations, but if it becomes apparent that the eardrum cannot heal independently, eardrum repair must be considered as an option.
Congenital anomalies involving the eardrum can be repaired surgically and repairs can also be used to treat deposits of calcium on the eardrum. Another reason to perform this surgery is a condition known as a retraction pocket. In people with retraction pockets, pressure builds up inside the ear, pulling the ear drum out of position. This in turn leads to damage that causes hearing loss.
Depending on the patient and the specifics of the procedure, an ENT may recommend local or general anesthesia for an eardrum repair. For involved procedures and young patients, general is preferred because the patient is completely immobile. For simple procedures and cooperative patients, a local anesthesia to manage pain at the surgical site may be enough. The surgeon uses a variety of tools to enter the ear for the purpose of performing the eardrum repair.
After an eardrum repair, the ear will be packed with wound dressing that will periodically need to be removed and checked. Patients need to keep water out of their ears, avoid blowing their noses hard, and refrain from physical exertion for several days after surgery. This gives the ear a chance to heal before the eardrum is subjected to stress. A surgeon can provide advice about when a patient can be active again, based on the rate of healing in the ear and the complexity of the eardrum repair.
If an eardrum repair is performed in a timely fashion, a patient may not experience permanent symptoms, such as hearing loss, as a consequence of the problem that necessitated the repair. In other cases, it may be possible to arrest hearing loss, but not to reverse it. Prompt identification and intervention when hearing problems develop is critical for preventing permanent damage.