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What does surgery involve?
The operation to close a hole in the eardrum is called a myringoplasty. Most myringoplasties in the UK are done under general anaesthetic. Some surgeons prefer to do them under local anaesthetic.
A cut is made behind the ear or above the opening in the ear. Some surgeons may perform the operation through the ear canal with the help of an endoscope or microscope. Occasionally, your surgeon may need to use a drill to widen the ear canal so they can get to the hole in order to repair it.
The material used to patch the hole (called a graft) is taken from under the skin or the lining and cartilage in front of the ear canal. Some surgeons prefer to use manmade eardrum grafts. The eardrum graft is placed against the eardrum.
Dressings are placed in the ear canal. These can be a removable pack or absorbent sponge dressings. You may have a dressing on the outside of your ear and a bandage on your head for a few hours.
What happens after the operation?
After the operation, you will be transferred to the recovery area. When your anaesthetic wears off, you will be taken back to the ward or day-case unit.
How long will I stay in hospital?
Many hospitals perform myringoplasty as day surgery. You will be able to go home once the operating team is satisfied that you have recovered from the anaesthetic.
If for any reason there is a complication following surgery, you might need to stay in hospital for longer.
What is the recovery period?
Recovery time is usually only a few days. The exact time needed off work varies between patients, but as a guide you may need to take up to one or two weeks off work.
What is the success rate?
For small holes, the operation works well nine times out of ten. The success rate is not quite so good for large holes. Other factors, such as whether or not you smoke, can affect the success rate.
What else should I expect after surgery?
Your ear may ache a little, but you can take painkillers to help with this. You may have a bandage on your head. If you do, you will usually go home after this has been removed. The stitches will be removed at your doctor’s surgery one to two weeks after the operation. There may be a small amount of discharge from the ear canal. This usually comes from the antiseptic solutions in the ear dressings.
Some of the ear dressings may fall out. Don’t worry if this happens. It is sensible to trim the loose end of the ear dressings with scissors and leave the rest in place. If the dressings in the ear canal are not dissolvable, they will be removed after two or three weeks by your surgeon at the hospital. You should keep your ear dry and avoid blowing your nose too hard. Put a cotton wool ball coated with Vaseline in your outer ear when you are having a shower or washing your hair. If your ear becomes more painful or is swollen, you should call the ear, nose and throat department at your local hospital or your GP for advice.
Follow up care
Your surgical team will tell you about any follow-up appointments you might need.
- A hole in the eardrum may not need any treatment.
- It is common to feel dizzy for a few hours after the operation. Rarely, the dizziness can last for months.
- After myringoplasty, your sense of taste may be different on the same side as you had the operation. Permanent damage is uncommon.
- Your hearing may stay the same or improve after the operation. It could also become worse, but this is rare.
- Very rarely, the facial muscles may be permanently weakened after the operation. Sometimes the weakness is temporary and recovers.
- Tinnitus can develop after the operation, but this is not common.
- You may have an allergic reaction to the medication in the ear dressings.
Further information is available via: https://www.entuk.org/patients/conditions