May 17th, 2017 by Sepehr Oliaei, MD

For those of you suffering from chronic eustachian tube dysfunction who have been waiting for medical breakthroughs to help with treatment of their condition, there may be hope on the horizon. FDA in the past year has approved new devices to help dilate the Eustachian tube. Endoscopic balloon dilation of the Eustachian tubes uses same technology as balloon sinus surgery to dilate narrow passages of Eustachian tubes which connect the middle ear space to the back of the nose (nasopharynx) to help support hearing mechanisms of the ears via pressure equalization. Potential causes of this condition include mucosal inflammation around the tubes due to factors such as nasal allergies and acid reflux. In the past, this condition was medically treated via nasal sprays or via placement of artificial ventilating tubes (ear tubes) on the ear drum. Medical treatment is often unsuccessful, and ear tube placement often has to be repeated several times as tubes tend to have limited lifespan.

Eustachian tubes

Newly FDA approved devices are inserted through the nostril without any external incisions. Under endoscopic visualization, the deflated balloon in inserted into the eustachian tube opening and then inflated for a few seconds to achieve the dilation. Initial trials have been promising. In one study, over 50% of patients that received dilation showed normal ear function compared to 14% receiving traditional therapy.

However, long term studies are still ongoing and it is not yet clear how frequently, if at all the dilation would need to be repeated. Selection of appropriate patients is also important, as is consideration of the complications of the surgery (carotid arteries course very close to the Eustachian tubes). Tube placement in the ears is still a simple in office procedure with minimal risks but at the very least, this balloon dilation is offering hope for a potential long term solution.

Have you had frustrating experiences with chronic eustachian tube dysfunction? Any personal experiences with balloon dilation? Please share them in the comments section below. (note: comments are visible to public)




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