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Laser Surgery Corrects Ear Infections

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Ear infections are the most common childhood illness after the common cold. Chances are children will have at least one before the age of five. Treatments include antibiotics and tubes. Now there's a quick and painless alternative.

Like most eight-year-olds, Kayla Yorch loves listening to a good story. But not long ago, enjoying her favorite pastime was a struggle. A middle-ear infection robbed Kayla of more than half of her hearing in both ears. "Kayla's got a real high tolerance for pain. So when it comes to an ear ache or an ear infection, she doesn't feel it until her ears are protruding," says Lorna Yorch, Kayla's mother. To treat the infection, Otologist Doctor Herbert Silverstein of Sarasota Memorial Hospital used a new procedure called the Otolam Laser. He says it's safer than antibiotics and tubes. "It appears that in 80 per cent of the patients that are treated with the laser, called a tympanostomy, the fluid does not reoccur. They don't need tubes or another laser treatment.

First, anesthetic drops numb the ear. Then the laser creates a tiny hole in the eardrum, allowing the fluid to drain immediately. Unlike tubes, which require surgery and general anesthesia, the laser procedure is done in the doctor's office. Doctor Silverstein says the Otolam Laser can be used as the first line of treatment for ear infections instead of antibiotics. "If you do it early in the disease, you may not have to have the tubes put in and you may not have a chronic condition," he said.

After two laser treatments, Kayla has regained 75 per cent of her hearing. Doctors aren't sure if she'll get all of it back., but she's hopeful. The Otolam procedure can be performed on infants as young as six months. Doctor Silverstein says the laser costs about 25 per cent less than tubes and is covered by most insurance plans.

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