What are the Possible Side Effects from a Tympanomastoidectomy?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2018
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A tympanomastoidectomy involves removing a benign growth or infected bone from inside the ear. The possible side effects from the surgery include infection, deafness, brain injury, and stroke. In severe cases even death can result. The operation may also cause paralysis, loss of taste or dizziness, and these side effects can be temporary or permanent. The procedure is also known as a radical mastoidectomy.

There are two reasons a tympanomastoidectomy is warranted. Cholesteatoma is a condition in which skin cells in the middle ear behind the ear drum grow abnormally. These growths are not malignant cancers, but they can affect the function of the ear. The skin can grow into internal bones or into the brain. The potential dangers of cholesteatoma, if left untreated, include dizziness, meningitis, chronic ear infections, and loss of hearing, even to the point of deafness.

The other major reason a doctor may perform a tympanomastoidectomy is if a patient has chronic eardrum perforations that have not been repaired properly or if there is fluid draining from a perforated eardrum and the internal bone has become infected. For patients with these issues, removing the infected bone allows the ear to heal correctly. The tympanomastoidectomy can also improve the hearing and function of the ear.


A patient is placed under general anesthesia, and this anesthesia carries a small risk of death. The surgeon then makes an incision behind the ear in order to work on the inside of the ear. He or she removes the affected bone or skin growths and packs the cavity. Then, the incision is stitched up, and the wound is covered with sterile material. The operation carries a risk of infection either in the ear itself or in the incision.

The surgery may also affect the nervous system. A potential side effect is paralysis on the side of the body where the operation was performed. This paralysis can affect all of that side of the body or just the facial muscles. Paralysis can be temporary or permanent. Nerve damage may also result in numbness in the side of the tongue, a change in taste perception, numbness behind the ear, or a dry mouth.

The operation also carries a risk of damage to a major artery, which could cause a stroke and even death. The brain could be affected, causing fluid to leak and potentially resulting in brain damage, an abscess, or meningitis. A patient may also have temporary or permanent hearing loss after the surgery, which may or may not be reversible by a second operation. The operation may not cure the cholesteatoma fully, and the condition could recur. The eardrum could also become perforated again, and the ear infections can return.


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