What is tympanoplasty?

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Tympanoplasty in children: Overview

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

Your child will get medicine to fall asleep or feel relaxed during the surgery. The surgery is usually done through the opening of the ear canal. Sometimes the surgery is done through a cut (incision) behind the ear. The doctor may use a small piece of tissue taken from behind your child's ear to patch the hole in the eardrum. Or the doctor may use an artificial graft to patch the hole. If your child had an incision behind the ear, the doctor will close it with stitches.

Your child will probably go home from the hospital on the same day of the surgery. 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.

How can you care for yourself after tympanoplasty?


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • 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.
  • 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 more time off.


  • 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.
  • Check with your doctor before drinking alcohol. Alcohol may make dizziness worse.
  • 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 fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • 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 cut (incision) with a dressing over it. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • 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, don't try to stop it. Open your mouth, and don't pinch your nose.

How do you prepare for a tympanoplasty?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

After tympanoplasty: When to call

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, shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You bleed through your bandage.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the ear or incision.
    • A fever.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

After a tympanoplasty: Overview

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. If the doctor made a cut (incision) behind your ear, the incision may be sore. 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 the foam packing or ointment dissolves. The packing will dissolve about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.

If you have stitches, they 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's 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, and playing contact sports.

What happens on the day of tympanoplasty surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 3 hours.
  • You will have foam packing or ointment in your ear canal. Your doctor may take this out about 1 to 2 weeks after your surgery.
  • You may have strips of tape or a bandage over the incision behind your ear.

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