What can go wrong after grommet insertion?

Ear infections / discharge
This is the most common complication from grommet insertion. About 25% of children will have one ear infection while the grommet is in place. These present as a discharge and are not usually painful.

  • Infections are often due to water contamination - swimming may have to be restricted if this is a recurrent problem.

  • They may also occur with a cold that results in a middle ear infection which discharges through the grommet.

Treatment consists of topical antibiotic drops and avoiding water contamination. For older children it is recommended that ear protection is worn when swimming and customised ear plugs are an option. At bath time particularly when washing hair the ear must be protected to prevent soapy water from going through the grommet and cotton wool smeared with vaseline and placed in the ear canal is usually sufficient or if you have custom made plugs these can be used at bath time and fro swimming

It is important to have the ear checked after the infection has resolved to ensure that the grommet has not been pushed out or become blocked. 

Tympanosclerosis, scarring of the eardrum, may occur but is usually of no consequence. Such scarring may also occur with glue ear and ear infections.

Residual perforation
In most cases, as the grommet comes out, the hole behind closes. Although, in 1-2% of children this may not happen. If the perforation  fails to close, then further surgery is needed to close the perforation - and this is carried out after the age of 8..