Complications of PE Tube Surgery

Fortunately, complications associated with the placement of pressure equalization tubes are minimal. The most common problem is recurrent or persistent drainage from the ear. The fluid that drains from the ear may be clear or appear cloudy. A relatively small percentage of children experience this type of persistent drainage. Often drainage occurs if the tubes are inserted right after the child experiences an upper respiratory infection or seasonal allergies. Fluid trapped behind an intact eardrum is now free to drain out of the ear, and the PE tubes are doing their job!

The following complications are also possible, but relatively rare:

  • A PE tube may stay in longer than desired. Most tubes fall out within two years. In some children, the tubes don’t fall out of the eardrum within the expected time frame and may require removal at a future date. On the other hand, a tube may also fall out prematurely and need to be replaced.
  • Some swollen tissue may develop around the edges of the tube. This may lead to infection, bleeding, or drainage from the ear. The PE tube may need to be removed if the tissue doesn’t heal with treatment.
  • The eardrum may become thin and retract into the middle ear space. This may occur even if the PE tube functions properly.
  • A hole may remain in the eardrum after the PE tube falls out. Usually the hole will heal spontaneously. If not, additional surgical treatment may be required.
  • Scarring or calcification of the eardrum can occur. This is called myringosclerosis and normally does not affect your child’s hearing.
  • Skin from the outside of the eardrum can get into the middle ear space, causing debris to develop from dead skin cells. This is known as cholesteatoma. The dead skin can be trapped within the middle ear. If this occurs, additional surgery may be necessary.

It’s extremely rare to develop permanent hearing loss after the placement of PE tubes, but the condition may occur. Keep in mind, if you have any questions or concerns about PE tube surgical complications, feel free to discuss them with your child’s ENT specialist and healthcare team.