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What is Tympanoplasty?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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Tympanoplasty is a surgical technique that is focused on repairing or correcting issues that have to do with the bones of the middle ear or the eardrum. In some cases, surgery of this type is reconstructive in nature, while at other times, the approach will involve the repair of some injury that has damaged the eardrum or the middle ear. Most physicians prefer to utilize tympanoplasty as a last resort, only ordering the surgery when it is apparent that the damage will not heal on its own.

There are two main approaches to tympanoplasty surgery. One approach involves entering the ear by accessing the ear canal. This is often a viable process when the damage has not resulted in blockage or severe infection that has the tissues of the canal swollen and tender to the touch. Considered to be less invasive than other options, this form of ear surgery is usually the first consideration once the decision to make use of surgical treatment has been approved.

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A second approach to tympanoplasty involves making a small incision just behind the ear, making it possible to reach the bone structure of the middle ear as well as the eardrum. This approach is often used when the infection and inflammation makes it impractical to access the middle ear through the ear canal. While considered more invasive than going through the ear canal, this approach is often performed on an outpatient basis while the patient is made comfortable using general anesthesia.

Both forms of tympanoplasty can be employed to repair or correct problems with the ear. When the eardrum has been damaged and is not capable of healing on its own, the surgery will include harvesting a small amount of cartilage and using it to reconstruct a workable eardrum. In like manner, bone fragments can be moved back into place and secured using various methods to fuse the chipped bone. While there is some degree of risk in terms of post-surgical infection, most people who undergo procedures of this type do not experience much in the way of complications. The time of tympanoplasty recovery varies, depending on the severity of the injury and the procedures required, but can be as short as a few days.

Typically, tympanoplasty is not ordered until an ear, nose, and throat specialist has confirmed that the damage to the eardrum or bone will not heal on its own. At that point, medication will be used to alleviate pain and also minimize any inflammation that is present. Once the patient is reasonably stable, the surgery can proceed. Because the surgery has a high rate of success, there is a good chance the patient will enjoy a full recovery of his or her hearing capacity.

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