Jan 24, 2010

As many of you know due to the wonderful world of Facebook, Charlotte had tubes put in her ears last Friday. For those with medical curiousity - I'll explain the situation.
The ear is as structured below. When an ear infection develops, it is a result of fluid backing into the open space in the middle ear. Fluid typically comes from an upper respiratory infection (aka "cold") or allergies. The warmth in the ear creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. In children, the eustachian tube is almost horizontal, making it difficult for the fluid to drain down into the throat. Ear infections can have serous fluid - a yellow, sticky fluid, or purulent fluid - cloudy/pussy.

Here is a good example of what a provider sees when they look into the ear. On the left you see a normal ear drum. The right is an infected ear with purulent fluid. You can see that the ear drum is bulging, red and pus behind. If you had this, you'd pop Motrin like candy and be up all night complaining of throbbing pain. This is what poor Charlotte had to deal with for two months on end.

So why tubes? Well, if you look back at the first picture you'll see the eustachian tube. If this becomes congested, there is no avenue for the pus to drain. So you can hit the patient with antibiotic after antibiotic and get nowhere. High dose steroids could treat the inflammation, but you have a lot more risks with that. Tubes allow the fluid to drain through the drum and ear canal instead. The tubes are inserted through a small incision. Eventually the body will "spit" the tubes out as the cells on the ear drum regenerate. The hope is that the artificial tubes stay in place long enough for the child to develop better draining eustachian tubes.

Charlotte has a pair of white tubes now. She still seems to be in pain, but not nearly as bad as before. I just hope these are the only tubes she needs, because having to do this procedure multiple times can cause scarring to the ear drum which could eventually affect hearing to a degree. And you know, my future concert pianist needs her hearing ;)


Patty Ann said...

Good grief, have you thought about teaching this stuff?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Angie. Very clear and concise explanation.Linda

Westie Mommy said...

Great explanation and pictures. I've always wondered exactly what it meant when a child has "tubes" put in. I agree with Patty Ann...You're a great teacher! Your patients must be lucky :)