Relationship Between Tympanic Membrane Perforations and Retained Ventilation Tubes

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To determine the effects of prolonged ventilation tube retention on tympanic membrane healing and the efficacy of patching procedures used concomitantly at the time of tube removal.


Retrospective chart review.


Tertiary referral academic institution.


Seventy-six patients aged 12 years and younger, with a total of 99 ears identified from January 1989 to December 1994. All patients underwent ventilation tube removal for prolonged tube retention or infection unresponsive to medical management. A minimum of 6 months of follow-up was required for inclusion.


Ventilation tube removal under general anesthesia, with or without concomitant patching.

Outcome Measures

All medical charts were reviewed for age, sex, indications for tube removal, tube retention time, type of patch used (if any), type of tube, outcome after removal, other medical problems, and previous surgical history.


The perforation rate was significantly higher in children with tubes retained beyond 36 months (P=.02). History of previous adenoidectomy predicted poor outcome, with a rate of 47% vs 17% in patients with no such history (P=.002). Patching did not improve healing. No other patient factors significantly influenced the perforation rate.


Ventilation tube retention longer than 36 months resulted in an increased perforation rate after surgical removal. Paper patching at the time of tube removal does not improve healing. Prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and to determine the efficacy of other patching techniques.

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