You visited the doctor for your child’s earaches. They diagnosed them with glue ear. The doctors are recommending a grommets surgery if you want a quick recovery.
You’re asking yourself – What are grommets? Are there any risks? Are there any alternatives? If I follow the doctor’s decision, how should I prepare? Etc.
We’ll be covering all these and more in detail in this article.
Let’s get started.
It’s a complication that can occur after a case of AOM (Acute Otitis Media), especially if it’s been present for more than 3 months.
What Are Grommets?
Grommets are small pipes that are surgically placed in the human eardrum to treat glue ear that results from infections in the middle ear – better known as glue ear.
An Anesthetic is a substance that induces insensitivity to pain. Surgeries would be extremely tough without this. It’s an absolute necessity in any sort of surgery,
Children are usually given short-acting general anesthesia. If your child has an acute respiratory infection, the anesthetist might postpone the procedure.
For adults, the procedure is performed using a local anesthetic. Modern anesthesia has few risks (and only occasionally severe).
All types of operations carry risks of bleeding and infection, but the surgery being a tiny one – the risk is very little. Around 1 in 100 children might suffer from a perforated eardrum (a hole or tear in the eardrum).
All types of anesthetic carry risk, but it’s negligible. Modern anesthesia is very safe, and the anesthetists are very experienced and can treat any complications that can happen.
For persistent glue, grommets are the best treatment option. Medical treatments with steroids or decongestants aren’t useful if there aren’t any signs of infection or allergy. Antibiotics work but it takes a lot of time. Letting it stay might to irreparable damage to your baby’s ear and cause permanent damage to their hearing.
The surgeon will need to know the patient’s medical history to plan the best treatment for your child. Disclose all health problems your child has had, as some may interfere with surgery, anesthesia, and aftercare.
You surgeon must know about-
- Any allergy or bad reactions your child might have to antibiotics, anesthetic drugs, or other medicines
- Any recent or long-term illness or infection of your child
- A list of the medicines being currently or taken lately. Including medicines given by your family doctor, those bought over-the-counter, and herbal or alternative preparations
You can choose to meet the surgical team that will perform on your child during a pre-assessment visit. They’ll explain what will happen during the operation and settle any inquiries you might have. You’ll be asked to sign a consent form.
The anesthetist will tell you the anesthetic procedures and answer any other queries you might have.
If you wish, you can visit the ward as well. Your child will be admitted hereafter the surgery.
The hospital or surgeon will give you the fasting instructions to be observed on the day of the procedure.
It’s of utmost importance that you adhere to the fasting guidelines given to you, as the operation will be cancelled if your child has had any food during the restricted period – the reason is, that there’s a serious risk of inhaling crumbs from the stomach during anesthesia, so it’s necessary to have an empty stomach.
Arrive on time given to you by the nurse – the time on the letter doesn’t mean the time of the operation – expect it to take around 4 hours. Your child will be admitted, tested by the doctors, and have a local anesthesia cream applied before the operation.
Sometimes, a child might become distressed due to the anesthetic – so you might find yourself cuddling your baby to keep them calm.
After the surgery, your child will be placed in the ward, and after a while, the anesthetic will wear off. Once they’re comfortable and have eaten up, the doctors will have a check-up to see if there are any complications – if not, you can bring them home.
They might give you a discharge letter with information about your conditions. This is to inform them about the surgery, so hand this to your GP (general practitioner) during the next visit. You’ll also get a copy to keep for the future.
You should avoid public transport for the time being. We advise you to let someone else drive you home while you sit in the back seat with your little patient.
The ear might ooze or bleed for days. It’s completely normal. It’ll stop after a few days of the operation. Just softly clean the ear shell of the discharge. Don’t try to clean the ear canals. Avoid using cotton buds as well.
It’s common for your child to have a mild earache, you can give them pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen – just follow the instructions on the bottle.
Until you’ve had your outpatient appointment, avoid letting water into their ear. You’ll need to watch out during washings, baths, and showers. You can try putting a thumbnail-sized ball of cotton wool covered in Vaseline into their outer ear. Avoid inserting it inside the ear canal, as it could be hard to remove.
If they go swimming, using earplugs or headbands is advisable – avoiding the pool altogether is still a better option.
- About the Author
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Dr Ronald Chin is an Australian trained Otolaryngologist Head and Neck Surgeon.
After graduating as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Dr Chin undertook further specialized training in Head and Neck Cancer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
He has published many research papers and is an active teacher and scholar.
As part of his sub-specialty training, Dr Chin has training in Laser, Da Vinci Robotic, Flex Robotic and complex surgical techniques.
In addition to specialized Head and Neck Cancer, Dr Chin also enjoys general adult and paediatric ENT Surgery and practices sinus, snoring/sleep and general paediatric ENT Surgical procedures.
Dr Ronald Chin
Conjoint Associate Professor
Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Western Sydney University