Eustachian Tube Patency

Eustachian Tube Patency

Alternate Names

  • patulous eustachian tube

Definition

Eustachian tube patency describes a condition in which the eustachian tube is continually open. The eustachian tube is a structure in the ear that runs from behind the eardrum to the back part of the nasal cavity.

What is going on in the body?

Normally, the eustachian tube is closed at the back of the nasal cavity. It can open during swallowing or yawning to equal the air pressure on either side of the eardrum. In eustachian tube patency, the canal is constantly open. As a result, there is more risk that an infection will spread into the middle ear space.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

In most cases, the cause of eustachian tube patency is unclear. It can be seen in a person who has lost an excessive amount of weight. One theory is that the loss of fat tissue around the canal allows it to be constantly open. Other possible causes are radiation therapy and Down syndrome.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Because there is no clear cause, there is no known way to prevent this.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

During the physical examination, the healthcare professional will see the eardrum move in and out with breathing. Sometimes the professional will perform a tympanogram, which is a procedure used to measure the pressure behind the eardrum indirectly.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

There is an increased risk of chronic infections of the middle ear, known as chronic otitis media, in a person with eustachian tube patency.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There is no risk to others, as the condition is not contagious.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

While there is no adequate treatment for this condition, some people respond to nasal steroid sprays. Insertion of an ear tube in the eardrum is helpful for some individuals. In severe cases, injection of Teflon under the lining of the tube may close it. In extreme cases, the eustachian tube can be plugged surgically.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Nasal steroid sprays can reduce mucous membrane thickness, worsening the problem. An ear tube can cause infection if soapy or contaminated water enters through its opening. When the tube falls out, some people are left with a hole in the eardrum.
After surgery to close the eustachian tube, a person may development a chronic infection of the middle ear, known as chronic otitis media, or mastoiditis, an infection of the bone behind the ear.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Symptoms usually resolve with successful treatment.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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