Let’s Clear the Air

Most people aren't aware how many times their middle ear tube opens and closes. But when it malfunctions, it doesn't take long to notice a potentially serious problem. Called the Eustachian tube, it connects the middle ear space with the back of the nose. It's regular opening and closing is spurred from muscles in our throat, jaw movements and swallowing which allows proper ventilation. It also maintains changes in atmospheric pressures outside the ear often associated with both high and low altitudes such as air travel, mountain hikes and especially during diving activities.

For some, regardless of their activities or atmospheric pressure, their tube malfunctions on a regular basis. This condition, called Eustachian tube dysfunction, or otherwise known as ETD, leaves sufferers with chronic pain, discomfort and dulled or loss of hearing.

Thanks to a new procedure called Balloon Tuboplasty, improved tube function of the Eustachian tube offers a new sense of relief. Gregory Danielson, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist at Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat, and has performed this procedure with positive outcomes with his patients. "This option is very well tolerated with minimal risk," says Dr. Danielson. However, with any new technology, there is a learning curve especially when it comes to making sure patients are properly selected.

Currently, the procedure is done only in an operating room setting. It consists of passing a catheter through the nose into the tube where a balloon is inflated for two minutes. Aftercare is minimal and most patients don't feel significant pain. But it can take up to two months before the Eustachian tube function to normalize. "The results of this technique show that the dilation of the Eustachian tube is a safe and simple procedure, and represents a good treatment option. We are seeing success rates in over half of the patients we have treated," adds Dr. Danielson.

Even though ETD affects people of all ages, the tuboplasty has only been given to adults and must be done in an operating room setting. But with emerging technology and continued testing, Dr. Danielson says he see this being an option for sufferers of all ages. In the future, it may be offered to pediatric patients or as an office procedure done with local anesthesia," he adds, which would allow more sufferers potential relief.

Article by: Jennifer Dumke - Sioux Falls Woman Magazine