Exam Overview

Tympanocentesis is the removal of fluid from behind the eardrum.
The doctor uses a special needle with a tube attached to collect the sample of
fluid. A
culture and sensitivity test is usually done on the
sample of fluid.

Before the test, your child may get medicine to help him or her
relax. Or a doctor or nurse may apply medicine directly to the eardrum to
numb the area. If there is a lot of earwax, it is removed from the ear before
the test begins.

The child is held very still while the fluid is removed. You may be
asked to help with holding your child still.

In most cases, the eardrum heals within 3 to 5 days after the

Why It Is Done

This procedure is not often done. It is sometimes done:

  • When a child has severe earache, fever, and
    signs that an
    ear infection is not getting better with
  • When there are signs that a child has serious
    complications from an ear infection.
  • When
    an ear infection is suspected in a newborn or in a child with an
    impaired immune system, or when a person is suspected
    of having an unusual organism causing the ear infection.
  • As a
    treatment for a child with severe ear pain. Removal of fluid from behind the
    eardrum relieves pressure in the ear, easing pain. This may work better than
    medicines for ear pain.


In most cases, doing a
culture and sensitivity test on fluid collected by
tympanocentesis can identify the bacteria causing the infection. This helps the
doctor prescribe an antibiotic that is more likely to work. Sometimes no
bacteria are found in the fluid.

What To Think About

The child has to stay very still during the procedure.

Ask your doctor if your child needs to take extra care to keep water from getting in the ears when bathing or
swimming. Your child may need to wear earplugs. Check with your doctor to find out what he or she recommends.

Tympanocentesis does not prevent repeated ear infections (recurrent
otitis media).

Complete the medical test information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017

Current as of:
May 4, 2017