A total of 305 children, five to 16 months of age, were treated from 1983–1984 with ventilation tubes – Shah vent Teflon tube – inserted under local anaesthesia for recurrent acute otitis media (RAOM) or otitis media with effusion (OME). The final study group comprised 281 children (92.1 per cent) monitored prospectively for five years, 185 in the OME-group and 96 in the RAOM-group. For the first insertion of tubes the average ventilation period was 15.4 months. Re-tympanostomy, with adenoidectomy simultaneously at the first time was performed in 99 ears (35.2 per cent); once in 27.0 per cent, twice in five per cent, and three times in 3.2 per cent. Mastoidectomy due to otorrhoea was performed in three ears (1.1 per cent). The children in the OME-group were at higher risk of repeated post-tympanostomy otorrhoea episodes than children in the RAOM-group. These episodes of otorrhoea during the first insertion of ventilation tubes significantly increased both the tube extrusion rate and the need for subsequent re-tympanostomies. No major complications were caused by the tympanostomy procedure as such. It is concluded that early tympanostomy is a safe procedure in young children with RAOM or OME. However, parents should be carefully informed of risks of post-tympanostomy otorrhoea and recurrent disease after insertion of ventilation tubes necessitating subsequent tube insertion, especially in children with OME.