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The operation

The mastoid is the area of bone immediately behind the ear. A mastoidectomy is usually performed for persistent middle ear infection or for a skin cyst (cholesteatoma) of the middle ear and mastoid.

Mastoidectomy is performed under general anaesthesia. The incision is made behind the ear (a small amount of hair may need to be shaved).
Part of the mastoid bone is drilled away. The infection or skin cyst is removed and the ear drum repaired if necessary. The ear canal is often widened to allow the doctor to inspect and clean the ear in future. The ear will be packed with gauze, impregnated with special antiseptic solution. The operation is performed with a microscope and takes 2 to 4 hours.


Once you are awake you will be sent back to the ward for routine observations. The head bandage is left on until the nextmorning and most patients are ready to go home later that day.

The risks

All operations on the ear carry a risk to hearing, and it is often necessary to remove the tiny bones (hammer, anvil and stirrup) from the middle ear if they are damaged by the disease. Rarely, the inner ear has been invaded by the disease, so all hearing is lost in that ear. Over 10% of patients will notice taste disturbance after the operation, but this usually settles. A rare but serious problem is facial weakness. This usually settles in the first day but may persist. The doctor will discuss these and other risks further before surgery.

What to expect after the operation

  1. You may feel ill or vomit the night of surgery. Medication will be prescribed to help settle this.
  2. Pain relief will be given if required.
  3. The bandage will be removed the following morning and you can go home if well.
  4. A wick/plug will stay in your ear for 2 weeks, so it will be blocked.

*See discharge advice after MAJOR ear surgery.

If you have any concerns after the operation, please call our rooms on 9388 7474.


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