[Perforation of the ear drum. On the history of paracentesis and grommet insertion].


As early as 1649, Jean Riolan the Younger pierced an ear drum, after which the patient's hearing improved. This occurred as a result of an accidental ear drum injury while cleaning an ear canal with an ear-spoon. In 17th and 18th centuries, several pioneers in medicine (Thomas Willis, Antonio Mario Valsalva, William Cheselden) conducted experiments in an effort to ascertain the function of the ear drum in hearing. At the end of the 18th century, ear drum perforation, like perforation of a cataract, was indiscriminately performed by itinerent quacks and "physicians" in England, France, and Germany. Ear drum perforation was performed in many places even for the healing of deaf and dumb. Astlee Cooper reported about success with ear drum perforation in 1800 and listed strict indications. He recommended the operation only in the presence of obturation of the Eustachian tube. Because of the negative results of indiscriminate ear drum perforation, the operation soon acquired a bad reputation and was not performed for decades. It was only Herrmann Schwartze who reintroduced paracentesis into the daily practice of otorhinolaryngology. He was director of the royal ENT clinic in Halle and published a trailblazing treatise on the indications, value, and success of this operation. Since physicians had soon realized that spontaneous healing tendencies of the ear drum quickly lead to closure of an artificial perforation, many physicians tried different techniques to obtain a permanent opening. Gruber resected half of the ear drum--unsuccessfully. Others put foreign bodies into the ear drum apertures, such as catgut, whalebone rods, and lead wires. In his textbook of 1845, Martell Frank first described a grommet made of gold foil. Politzer experimented with a hard rubber ring but later abandoned his attempts because of lack of success. Voltolini manufactured an open hollow ring of gold foil or aluminium, which had to be fixed at the handle of the malleur. Armstrong described a "new" therapy for chronic secretory otitis media consisting of inserting a vinyl tube into the ear drum. While he was not the inventor of the grommet, he was the first to reintroduce grommets in the middle of the 20th century. Theromoparacentesis was performed as early as 1867 by Voltolini, who performed this operation using a galvanic cautery device. After more than 100 years, the Japanese physician Saito reintroduced thermoparacentesis into the therapy of tube ventilation disorders. Paracentesis, grommet insertion, and thermoparacentesis are among the most successful treatments currently available to the ENT specialist when used properly. They are treatments with a long history.

Cite this paper

@article{Brusis1996PerforationOT, title={[Perforation of the ear drum. On the history of paracentesis and grommet insertion].}, author={Tilman Brusis and Horst Luckhaupt}, journal={Laryngo- rhino- otologie}, year={1996}, volume={75 3}, pages={178-83} }