Reconstructive middle ear surgery refers to many surgical procedures that may be performed when there is chronic infection or other chronic problems in an ear. Chronic infections usually occur in the setting of a hole in the ear where acute infection has failed to resolve, leaving thickened or inflamed tissue behind in the middle ear and/or mastoid cavity. This can make the ear wet, cause recurrent or chronic ear drainage, irritation, pain, hearing loss and other possible complications. In a normally structured ear, sound waves are able to travel down the ear canal and vibrate the ear drum. When this tissue moves, it vibrates tiny bones, or ossicles, in the middle ear. The ossicles set off another set of vibrations in the fluid-filled middle ear. These vibrations stimulate hairs in the inner ear, sending signals which the brain translates as sounds. To determine a child's candidacy for ear drum surgery, your otologist or ENT specialist will conduct a computed tomography (CT) scan. In addition to examining the condition of the ear canal and ear drum, he will also check to see if the ossicles are fused together. Patients who do not have properly separated ear bones are not good candidates for middle ear reconstruction. The length of the operation depends on how much needs to be done. It may be as short as 20 minutes for repair of a small hole or between one and three hours if more work is necessary.
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