- Author: Brian Kip Reilly, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA more...
Myringoplasty can be used for small perforations, such as nonhealing tympanic membranes after pressure-equalizing (PE) tube extrusion or traumatic perforations. The technique involves freshening the edges of the perforation to promote healing and placing a carefully trimmed graft lateral to the defect. Grafting materials for myringoplasty include fat, Gelfilm, Gelfoam, AlloDerm, and cigarette paper. Gelfoam can also be placed as packing in the middle ear to support the graft.
When planning tympanoplasty, the surgeon must consider the location of the perforation (marginal versus central), and size (total versus subtotal). Areas of myringosclerosis and tympanosclerosis should be noted. Important comorbidities worth noting include craniofacial disorders and underlying environmental allergies or chronic allergic rhinitis. Critical factors that make tympanoplasty less successful include adhesive otitis media, severe eustachian tube dysfunction with either perforation of the contralateral ear or ongoing intermittent otorrhea, cholesteatoma, and previous surgical repair.[9, 10]
Various techniques and grafting materials can be used, and these are covered later. Which approach is used depends on the size and location of the perforation, the presence or absence of cholesteatoma or granulation tissue, the status of the ossicles and mastoid, other anatomical considerations (eg, narrow external auditory canals), as well as the surgeon’s preference and expertise.[11, 12, 13, 14]
Examining the middle ear and ossicles and removing any elements of adhesions or cholesteatoma is critical. The chosen approach should provide optimal visualization of the perforation and tympanic membrane. One should be careful not to disrupt an intact and mobile ossicular chain if the hearing loss is only low-frequency conductive, as is often the case with hearing loss secondary to a perforation.
Various materials exist for use for tympanic membrane grafting. True temporalis fascia is the most common graft because of its ease of harvest and its abundant availability, even in revision cases. Some surgeons prefers loose areolar fascia (also known as “fool’s fascia”) and prefer to save the true fascia for revision cases. Also, the “fool’s fascia” is considered by some to be more pliable, have less donor site morbidity, and to be more transparent after healing. It is available via the same postauricular incision that can be used for tympanoplasty, or a separate incision can be made in or beyond the postauricular hairline if a transcanal or endaural technique is used. A mild amount of donor site morbidity occurs, with postoperative pain over the temporalis muscle being the most common symptom.
The postauricular incision is marked and injected with lidocaine with epinephrine.
Dissection is carried down onto the fascia (loose areolar /true temporalis).
The graft is harvested.
Muscle is removed from the fascia graft, and the graft is then set on the back table for later use.
Cartilage is available to be harvested easily from either the tragus or the conchal bowl, if a post-auricular approach is being used. Tragal cartilage is harvested with perichondrium attached via a small incision on the internal surface of the tragus. This graft is an appropriate size and carries very little donor site morbidity. In addition, the perichondrium can be reflected to stabilize the graft. Conchal cartilage also carries no additional significant morbidity. Other grafting materials include lobular fat, periosteum, perichondrium, vein, and AlloDerm.
The transcanal approach is especially good for small posterior perforations, but can be used for medium-sized perforations if the anterior tympanic membrane is easily visualized. This technique can be challenging for significant anterior perforations, narrow/stenotic ear canals, or individuals with a significant anterior canal bulge. Inspecting the perforation prior to preparing the patient and determining that at least a 5-mm speculum can be placed is important. Canalplasty can be used to improve visualization if slightly limited.
When performing a transcanal medial tympanoplasty procedure, the following steps are followed:
- The ear canal is suctioned and surgical Betadine used during the surgical prep is removed.
- The external auditory canal is cleaned and injected with 1% lidocaine with 1:100,000 epinephrine or 0.5% lidocaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine, primarily for vasoconstriction to optimize visualization during the procedure.
- The edge of the perforation is dissected and removed using a sharp pick and cup forceps; this “postage-stamping” and “freshening” of the perforation is critical to ensure that the graft incorporates into the native tympanic membrane remnant.
- Next, a tympanomeatal flap is created. It is customized based on the location of the perforation and surgeon’s preference. The flap design should be such that it can be easily and atraumatically raised and the undersurface of tympanic membrane perforation can be readily accessed. A medially-based tympanomeatal flap is usually created with radial incisions at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock (ie, superiorly and inferiorly) that either connect directly or via a semilunar incision in the posterior canal just medial to the bony-cartilaginous junction.
- The tympanomeatal flap is raised medially with a round knife. To avoid traumatic tearing, take great care not to suction on the flap.
- When the annulus is reached, the tympanotomy is made such that the instrument of choice (eg, round knife, gimmick, sickle knife, pick) lifts the annulus while hugging the bony groove from which the fibrous annulus can be dissected. The fibrous annulus is then dissected circumferentially with care not to injure the ossicles, the chorda tympani nerve, or residual drum. The flap is then positioned, usually anteriorly, such that the perforation is exposed.
- A canalplasty of the posterior or anterior external auditory canal can be performed to optimize visualization. Take care not to injure the facial nerve or temporomandibular joint.
- If indicated, the middle ear and ossicles are inspected and palpated to confirm ossicular continuity. Middle ear disease (granulation tissue, tympanosclerosis, adhesions, cholesteatoma) is completely removed. Removing hypertrophic middle ear mucosa with either a McCabe dissector or Duckbill elevator, particularly mucosa abutting the fibrous annulus in anterior tympanic membrane perforations, is important.
- Ossicular reconstruction can be performed if necessary, followed by grafting of the perforation. Elevating the tympanic membrane remnant off the long process of the malleus with a sickle knife may be necessary. This allows both closer inspection of the ossicles and better placement of the graft.
- The middle ear must be carefully packed with the surgeon’s preferred material – either Gelfilm, Gelfoam, or Surgicel. This is often soaked in either oxymetazoline, antibiotic ear drops, or diluted epinephrine (1:10,000). Packing the mesotympanum and hypotympanum is important, although excess packing should be avoided near the ossicles so as to prevent adhesions.
- The graft is trimmed on the back table. The graft should adequately cover the entire defect. Hemostasis is critical to intraoperative visualization and successful placement of the graft. The graft should be well supported so as to avoid shifting or displacement.
- Some surgeons advocate that nitrous oxide anesthetic be switched off at this point because this particular agent has a tendency to accumulate in spaces such as the middle ear and can potentially dislodge the graft.
- The tympanomeatal flap is laid back down over the graft, and the posterior canal skin edges are laid flat. Pieces of Gelfoam, Surgicel, or antibiotic ointment are placed along the tympanic membrane and graft and layered laterally to cover the canal incisions.
- Antibiotic ointment is placed in the lateral canal, and either Vaseline-coated or antibiotic-coated sculpted cotton ball is placed in the external auditory meatus.
- An optional Glasscock or mastoid pressure dressing is placed at the end of the case, particularly if a mastoidectomy has been performed.
The endaural technique is useful with many perforations, especially when a small atticotomy is anticipated (when improved access to and visualization of the epitympanum is needed). Many of the steps involved in the transcanal technique are similarly performed in the endaural tympanoplasty as well. When performing an endaural medial tympanoplasty procedure, the following steps are followed:
- The canal is prepared as detailed above, but the injection may continue laterally to the lateral external auditory canal and tragus.
- An incision is made at 12 o’clock and extended superolaterally between the tragus and helical root.
- A medially-based tympanomeatal flap is raised, and the middle ear is entered with the same care as described previously. The tympanic membrane is freed superiorly and inferiorly.
- Middle ear work is carried out as indicated. Atticotomy can be performed using a small curette or drill if access into the epitympanum is needed.
- Grafting is performed and the tympanomeatal flap is laid back down. Gelfoam is placed along the tympanic membrane and fills the canal. Antibiotic ointment and a cotton ball are used laterally.
The postauricular technique is the most commonly performed approach for either revision tympanoplasties or those in which a mastoidectomy is anticipated. This technique offers the best visualization of the anterior tympanic membrane and is preferred for large anterior perforations. In addition, it can be combined with mastoidectomy if disease is found in the mastoid that requires the surgeon’s attention. A basic outline of the procedure follows:
- The canal is prepared in a similar fashion to the transcanal technique.
- Radial and horizontal canal incisions are made as described previously, and the canal is packed with cotton soaked in oxymetazoline or epinephrine.
- A postauricular incision is marked 5 mm posterior to the auricular crease in a curvilinear fashion, extending form the mastoid tip to the temporal line. The incision is injected with 1% lidocaine with either 1:100,000 epinephrine or 0.5% lidocaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine. The incision is carried down through the skin and subcutaneous tissue with care not to enter the ear canal. When the temporalis fascia is reached, a graft can be harvested using a Freer elevator and scissors. If multiple previous grafts have been harvested, either tissue from the contralateral ear or AlloDerm can be used as well.
- A periosteal incision is made in a “T” or “7” fashion, and the periosteum is raised into the lateral ear canal until the previously-made canal incisions are reached. The cotton in the ear canal is removed.
- A rubber Penrose drain can be inserted to retract the lateral canal and auricle anteriorly. Self-retaining retractors such as Weitlaner or Perkins retractors are used to provide further exposure. The perforation is visualized and prepared.
- The tympanomeatal flap is raised medially and the middle ear is entered as described previously. Do not suction on the flap.
- Canalplasty can be performed and middle ear work is carried out as indicated, including ossicular reconstruction. The perforation is grafted, and the tympanomeatal flap is laid back down with Gelfoam layered lateral to the tympanic membrane.
- The auricle and lateral ear canal are relaxed and the postauricular incision is closed in a layered fashion. The remainder of the ear canal is packed with Gelfoam and antibiotic ointment. A pressure dressing is applied to prevent a postauricular hematoma.
Although variations exist, 2 primary grafting techniques exist: medial grafting (or underlay) and lateral grafting (or overlay). These terms refer to the position of the graft in relation to the fibrous annulus, not to the malleus or tympanic remnant.
The medial grafting technique is performed as described previously. The primary advantage of the medial graft technique is that it is quicker and easier to perform than lateral grafting. It also carries a high success rate (approximately 90% in experienced hands). The biggest disadvantage is its limited exposure and poor utility for larger perforations and its difficulty with repair of near-total perforations.
Advantages of the lateral graft technique include wide exposure and versatility for larger perforations and for any needed ossicular reconstruction. Disadvantages include the requirement of a higher technical skill level, a longer operative time, slower healing rate, and the risk of blunting and lateralization of the graft. The lateral graft technique is championed by the some doctors as a technique more suited for total drum replacement. The basic steps involved in lateral grafting are described as follows:
- Lateral (overlay) tympanoplasty is performed through the previously-described postauricular incision. Important differences exist in the canal incisions. In this procedure, a vascular strip is created by making radial incisions at about 2 o’clock and 5 o’clock. These incisions are connected medially just lateral to the annulus on the posterior canal wall and laterally just medial to the bony-cartilaginous junction along the anterior canal wall.
- The skin of the anterior external auditory canal is raised medially. When the annulus is reached, squamous epithelium is raised off of the tympanic remnant, and the canal skin is removed in continuity with the remnant skin and stored in saline solution. This maneuver is done with a cupped forceps.
- Bony canalplasty can be performed anteriorly to ensure visualization of the entire annulus. Protecting the flap with a portion of trimmed Silastic as a shield is helpful. Care must be taken not to enter the glenoid fossa, which risks injuring the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and causing prolapse into the ear canal.
- Antibiotic-soaked Gelfoam is packed into the middle ear to support the tympanic remnant. The fascia graft is placed medial to the malleus and draped onto the posterior canal wall for stabilization. If possible, the graft should not extend onto the anterior canal wall in an effort to prevent blunting of the graft.
- The canal skin/tympanic remnant is returned and placed lateral to the graft and carefully positioned. Gelfoam is then packed tightly into the anterior aspect of the medial canal to prevent blunting, and the vascular strip is laid back down, covering the lateral extension of the fascia graft to improve its blood supply. Antibiotic-soaked Gelfoam is then packed into the rest of the external auditory canal.
- The postauricular incision is closed in layers, and antibiotic ointment is placed on the incision and in the lateral canal. A cotton ball is placed in the external auditory meatus, and a mastoid pressure dressing is applied.
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