The drain in the ears, an operation too often useless according to Christian Mutuality


When he was a baby, Romuald was doing otitis again and again. Acute ear infections are common ear infections in infants and children. Generally, they heal spontaneously. But for Romuald it was, apparently, not the case. As a result, his ENT doctor placed two drains, small pipes of mini-diabolo letting the air through, in his ears so that they dry up.

After a few months, the drains had to fall spontaneously and the eardrums closed again. In the case of Romuald, his ENT doctor wanted to facilitate the removal of one of the two drains. But he still held and this caused a perforation of one of the eardrums.

Romuald received a tympanic transplant at age 12. He did not maintain any hearing loss, nor any other sequelae. But adult, he still does not put his head in the water, a consequence of all his years of childhood during which he could not follow the swimming lessons.

Installing drains in the ear: a very variable operation from one region to another

In 2017 and 2018, more than 16,000 members of Christian Mutualities, under the age of 10, had drains in their eardrums because they frequently suffered from ear infections. Yet, this surgical procedure is often unnecessary. Differences in practice between hospitals are important. Children who see an ENT specialist are up to 14 times more likely to have such a procedure in one hospital than in another. A consultation at a surgeon's throat, nose, ears at Alma General Hospital in Eeklo, in 27% of cases, the installation of drains. At Queen Fabiola University Hospital in Brussels, it is not even 2% of consultations. The risk of such surgery also depends heavily on where the child resides. In Flanders, nearly 2% of children had drains installed in 2018. In Wallonia, this rate was only 1% and in Brussels 0.6%.

Jean Hermesse, General Secretary of the Mutualite Chretienne, warns parents: " We advise them to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of placing their child's drains with their doctor before making any decision. In the Netherlands, since the beginning of the year, a doctor has been specially hired to extract from the hospital all unnecessary acts and treatments. Drains tOne of the reasons for this is that waiting is often as effective as surgery. We could also consider such a form of monitoring in our country ".

For the Absym, the MC undermines the confidence of the parents in their doctor

On the Absym side, the doctors' union, It's the drop of water that makes the vase overflow. According to its president, Philippe Devos, the Christian Mutuality's arguments have no scientific basis and the risks of intervention mentioned are considerably exaggerated.

"Apparently, he says, the CM thinks it is his duty to make suspicious doctors treat their patients with conscience. Systematically undermining patients' trust in their doctors is detrimental to public health. "

He adds that mutuals have a financial benefit in the form of a bonus if the budgets allocated to medical benefits are not fully used.

Overall, the cost of these social security interventions is about 3.7 million euros.

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