Ossiculoplasty is ear surgery performed to repair one, two, or all of the three tiny bones of the middle ear. The operation is performed to try and improve hearing. It is usually done under general anesthetic and, in most cases, requires only an overnight stay at the hospital.
The structure of the ear is complicated and is responsible not only for hearing, but also balance. The ear is divided into three sections: outer, middle and inner. The outer section consists of the visible ear, canal and ear drum. The ear drum vibrates when sound travels down the canal. This, in turn, vibrates the ossicles of the middle ear.
The ossicles are three tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes, which are joined like a chain. They are commonly called the hammer, anvil and stirrup due to their shapes. The vibrations are transmitted to the inner ear, to a snail-shaped structure filled with fluid. Nerves then transmit the signals to the brain. The inner ear is also involved with the balance of the body.
The ossicles can become damaged in various ways, necessitating ossiculoplasty. Damage to the ossicles can be diagnosed by otoscopic examination by a doctor and, in rare cases, a computerized tomography (CT) scan. The decision as to whether ossiculoplasty is required or useful will be made in consultation with the medical practitioner. The most common causes of damage to these bones are chronic infection of the middle ear, genetic defects and trauma to the head. It is often accompanied by damage to the ear drum, so tympanoplasty is often performed at the same time as ossiculoplasty.
Ossiculoplasty surgery involves the surgeon making a small incision either in the ear or behind it. The damaged bone or bones are removed and usually replaced with bones made of artificial material. In some cases, the patient's own cartilage is used to support the system. The operation usually doesn't take more than an hour, provided there are no complications.
After ossiculoplasty, as with any surgery, there may be complications. In rare cases, hearing may be worsened rather than improved. It may take a couple of weeks to months for the full result to show, as the healing process takes some time. Heavy duty work, driving and air travel should be avoided for a period after the operation.