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Improved Ear Tube Procedure is Setting Lakewood Apart


We’re always looking for those things that set us apart from the rest; the next big thing that makes us special or unique. In the healthcare industry, this is especially true, and when that “thing” is a procedure that can provide patients with increased safety and a quicker recovery, even better. The Hummingbird ear tube system is just that “thing”.

While it is basically a less-invasive variation of the tried-and-true procedure used to insert tubes into the ear, the Hummingbird procedure is both special and unique, and definitely sets Lakewood Health System apart. Ear infections, and using tubes to decrease their frequency, are not new, but the improved knowledge of ear-related issues by primary care providers has helped make it clearer which patients could benefit.

The insertion of ear tubes is a common procedure to prevent ear infections or get rid of fluid in the ears that won’t go away. When the space behind the eardrum isn’t well ventilated, fluid builds up and an ear infection can start. To drain this fluid and create ventilation, a small hole is made in the middle ear, and a tube is inserted to keep it open. Within 6 to 18 months, the ear drum will push out the tube.

During a typical tube procedure, general anesthesia is used to sedate the patient, however with the Hummingbird procedure, only conscious sedation is used. This new device simplifies things by deploying the tube much quicker, allowing for a faster surgery and recovery. The patient will be back in their parents’ arms and then back home shortly after. While the procedure is typically best for children who are three years and younger, each patient will be evaluated by their ENT (ear, nose and throat) provider to determine the best option for them.

As if all that didn’t set the Hummingbird procedure apart enough, the fact that it is only performed in Minnesota by a few ENTs in the Twin Cities, and Dr. Ted Truitt, an otorhinolaryngologist from St. Cloud Ear, Nose & Throat, who visits Lakewood Health System every Thursday, makes it even more unique. Dr. Truitt has performed over a dozen hummingbird procedures at Lakewood, with great results.

“The more I learned about this procedure, the more I thought it could really benefit our youngest patients,” said Truitt. “With any procedure, there are always the potential risks with anesthesia and there can be a longer recovery time, which can make both the patients, as well as their families, nervous and anxious. If we can make that process a little easier for them, and provide them with better care, why wouldn’t we?  Physicians and health systems should always be looking for ways to be less invasive and use less anesthesia, especially with the little ones.”

“When I brought the idea to the anesthesia team at Lakewood, they were really supportive and excited about the idea. For me to start performing the Hummingbird procedure, it was just a matter of getting used to using the device. For anesthesia, the process was a little more involved, but they’ve been great, and we all have the same mission. It’s made the whole implementation that much easier.”

While ear tubes are one of the more common procedures Dr. Truitt performs at Lakewood, it is far from the only one. “I see patients ranging from newborns to the elderly. Along with ear tubes, we do a fair amount of coblation tonsillectomies, which is a quick, less-invasive procedure to remove tonsils, and we have the best technology to treat the sinuses endoscopically.”

The procedure about which Dr. Truitt is the most passionate is endoscopic sinus surgery. “I’ve been doing a less-invasive version of this surgery in St. Cloud for years, but it took some time to prove the benefits of the procedure. Lakewood was then able to acquire the equipment needed to more thoroughly and safely treat the sinuses. Thankfully, Lakewood staff and administration have been very supportive of my surgical practice and recently agreed to buy an image guided system which can track my endoscopic surgical instruments during surgery.”

The less-invasive procedure is safer for patients and results in a shorter recovery time. “I have people tell me all the time that they want to get their surgery done at Lakewood because the staff and facility are great. When patients call my office in St. Cloud to make an appointment, we always let them know we can see them at Lakewood if it makes more sense for them geographically. We are excited to start seeing patients in Pillager as well.”

By simplifying routine procedures, and using new, available technology, Lakewood and Dr. Truitt are improving patient safety and recovery by providing more options for the treatment of issues related to the ears, nose and throat. Bringing safe, less-invasive and more cost-effective care to our patients is something we strive to do, and thanks to Lakewood’s partnership with Dr. Truitt, we’re doing just that, one procedure at a time.

Dr. Truitt sees patient at Lakewood every Thursday in Staples, and he now visits the Pillager clinic once a month as well. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-450-3223, option 2.