Fifty-two patients who had otitis media with effusion associated with head and neck malignancies were identified and studied retrospectively. Forty-three of the patients underwent myringotomy and tube for treatment of the effusion. Ten (23%) of the 43 patients had either multiple infections or continuous otorrhea necessitating tube removal. The patients identified as having the highest rate of serious complications following myringotomy and tube were those individuals who had nasopharyngeal carcinoma, with 6 (55%) of 11 patients in this group having suffered major infections during the study. Myringotomy and tube is a satisfactory treatment for most patients who have effusions as a result of non-malignant etiologies; however, infections were more common and more severe in the study group than those anticipated in noncancer patients. Expectant management and the use of amplification in selected cases may prove to be a viable alternative in patients with unilateral effusion and/or relatively mild symptoms.