How is mastoid surgery done?
Usually a general anaesthetic is used. There are several ways of doing the operation, depending on the extent of the ear disease and the surgeon. They have various names such as atticotomy and mastoidectomy and take between one and three hours. They involve a cut either above the ear opening or behind the ear.
The bone covering the infection within the mastoid cells is removed. The resultant bony defect is called a mastoid cavity. Some surgeons leave the mastoid cavity open into the ear canal. This allows the surgeons to inspect the mastoid cavity easily. Other surgeons close up the mastoid cavity with bone, cartilage or muscle. You should discuss with your surgeon his/her preferred approach. At the end of the operation, packing will be placed in your ear while it heals.
Does it hurt?
The ear may ache a little but this can be controlled with painkillers provided by the hospital.
How successful is the operation?
The chances of obtaining a dry, trouble free ear from this operation by experienced surgeons are over 80 percent. In some patients it is possible to improve the hearing as well. You should enquire from your surgeon the likelihood of success in your particular case.
There are some risks that you must be aware of before giving consent to this treatment. These potential complications are rare. You should consult your surgeon about the likelihood of problems in your case.
Loss of hearing:
In a small number of patients the hearing may be further impaired due to damage to the inner ear. If the disease has eroded into the inner ear, there may be total loss of hearing in that ear.
Dizziness is common for a few hours following mastoid surgery and may result in nausea and vomiting. On rare occasions, dizziness is prolonged.
Sometimes the patient may notice noise in the ear, in particular if the hearing loss worsens.
Weakness of the face:
The nerve that controls movement of the muscles in the face runs inside the ear and may be damaged during the operation, but this risk is rare. If it happens, the face may lose its movement on one side but it is usually temporary.
Reaction to ear dressings:
Occasionally the ear may develop an allergic reaction to the dressings in the ear canal. If this happens, the pinna (outer ear) may become swollen and red. You should consult your surgeon so that he can remove the dressing from your ear. The allergic reaction should settle down after a few days.