ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A local doctor is calling for a reassessment of the need of ear tube surgery for children with chronic ear infections.

Dr. Michael Pichichero is the Director of Rochester General Hospital’s Research Institute, which is behind the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The findings indicates that fewer kids need ear tubes. Currently, the qualifying threshold for a child to be recommended for ear tube surgery is if they had 3 ear infections within 6 months, or 4 infections within 12 months.

“All these years, for decades, doctors and parents thought that when the tubes were put in and the ear infections stopped, it was because of the tubes. Our study shows they were going to stop anyway,” says Dr. Pichichero.

The hope is this new information can open a discussion within the pediatric and otolaryngology fields about making changes to the recommendations.

Researchers followed about 300 children from ages 1-3 years old, tracking certain data points. The results: 90% of children who would have qualified for ear tube surgery but did not move forward with the procedure had their infections clear up.

“For 90% of those children, the window of susceptibility, the beginning of the first ear infection until the last ear infection, for 90%, that was 10 months,” Dr. Pichichero said.

“Well, if it took 6 months to get three [infections], then you go to the ear nose and throat doctor, and then you get the surgery scheduled, then you have the surgery. By the time that window is over, the ear infections were already over.”

Dr. Pichichero notes the findings were calculated through statistics and this approach is now included for additional resources for those within the medical community.

“Importantly, within our article, we include an algorithm where doctors can put in the age of the child, day care or not, the number of ear infections when they put in the data, and our statistics will tell them how many more ear infections the child is likely to have.” says Dr. Pichichero.

According to the doctor, the scope of these findings could be widespread, as he says about half a million children get ear tubes in the U.S. which consumes more than $1 billion.

The study can be viewed here: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/doi/10.1542/peds.2022-058556/190442/Window-of-Susceptibility-to-Acute-Otitis-Media?autologincheck=redirected