Recurring ear infections or fluid build-up in the middle ear may require the temporary placement of tubes in the ear. Ear tube surgery involves a very small incision in the eardrum, which is a thin layer of tissue separating the outer and middle ear. The procedure is known as a myringotomy or tympanostomy. A small, plastic tube shaped like a hollow spool (a tympanostomy tube) is then inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear drained and ventilated. The tubes remain for 6 months to several years, and eventually fall out or are removed by a doctor.