TODAY: No more hospital for ear tubes? FDA approves same-day treatment in doctor office
By Meghan Holohan
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new method of inserting ear tubes into children, a potential game changer for the more than half million children who receive tubes in their ears annually. The new device, the Tubes Under Local Anesthesia system (Tula) allows doctors to place ear tubes using local anesthesia in their office, which could mean same-day relief for suffering children (and their parents).
"Ear infections are the most common reason why parents bring their child to the doctor," Dr. Laura Neff, a pediatric ENT surgeon at Children's Mercy Kansas City, told TODAY Parents. "And it's expensive, too."
"If you can only pay for one visit and have it done at the same time then you could potentially save a lot more money that way," Neff said. "Most families would prefer to have one longer visit than multiple visits."
Tula will allow doctors to deliver a local anesthetic into the ear drum using an electrical current to numb it for the insertion of tubes while keeping the child awake.
Children who have four ear infections in a year or fluid behind their ears that muffles their hearing for three months are candidates for ear tubes, which eases their pain, prevents further infections and stops hearing loss. Currently, doctors perform them in the hospital under general anesthesia.
Some children could not receive tubes from Tula, Neff said, likely because they couldn't be restrained or were too nervous. Still, if local anesthesia could be used even in some cases, she believes it would save parents time, money and heartache.
"If you could cut the number of children that you had to put under general anesthesia even in half it would still be a big improvement," she said.
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Learn more about Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) at Children's Mercy