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There is a paucity of evidence to guide the post-operative follow up of patients undergoing middle-ear ventilation tube insertion for the first time. This study was conceived to identify current practice at our institution (Ninewells Hospital, Dundee) and to inform subsequent change in our follow-up procedure.
Two cycles of data collection and analysis were performed. All paediatric patients undergoing ventilation tube insertion for the first time were identified. Patients who had previously undergone ventilation tube insertion or additional procedures such as adenoidectomy or tonsillectomy were excluded. The first data collection period comprised all of the year 2000, and the second 18 months over 2003–2004. A minimum of 20 months' follow up was allowed for. Data regarding clinical findings and audiometry were recorded at each follow-up appointment.
We identified a total of 50 patients meeting our criteria for inclusion in the first cohort. There were a total of 156 appointments between surgery and data collection (a mean of 3.12 per child). A total of 113 (72 per cent) appointments lead to no medical intervention. The only statistically significant difference between patients requiring further ventilation tube insertion (n = 10) and those not requiring further treatment during the study period (n = 40) was the average hearing threshold (p < 0.01). These findings prompted a change in the post-operative regime; all patients undergoing ventilation tube insertion were subsequently seen at three months for a pure tone audiogram, and further review depended on clinical and audiometric findings. Records for 84 children were identified and collected for the second cohort, there were a total of 154 appointments (a mean of 1.83 per child). In only 18 appointments (12 per cent) were normal findings and hearing recorded and children given a further review appointment. Sixteen of 29 (55 per cent) children with abnormal clinical findings (otorrhoea, tube blockage or extrusion) required some form of intervention (p < 0.05). Twenty-six had a mean hearing threshold worse than 20 dB at first review. Nineteen (73 per cent) required further intervention of some sort (p < 0.01).
Our study demonstrated that the vast majority of review appointments resulted in no clinical intervention. We therefore question the need for regular follow up in this patient group. Twenty per cent (10 of 50 and 18 of 84) of our patients required further ventilation tube insertion within the study periods. This is consistent with rates reported in the literature. Children with abnormal clinical findings or a mean hearing threshold greater than 20 dB were significantly more likely to require further intervention. We would recommend one post-operative review with audiometry, three months after surgery. At this initial appointment, further review should be offered to those children with poor hearing, early extrusion, blockage or infection, as they are more likely to require further ventilation tube insertion. This strategy is dependent on good links with community primary care providers and easy access to secondary care for further management, should this be required.