The Journal of Laryngology & Otology

Historical Review

History of myringotomy and grommets

Rimmer a1c1 , C E B Giddings a2 and Weir a3
a1 Department of Otolaryngology, Whipps Cross University Hospital, Guildford
a2 Department of Otolaryngology, Lister Hospital, Stevenage, Guildford
a3 Consultant ENT Surgeon, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Guildford

Article author query
rimmer j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
giddings ce   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
weir n   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The first recorded myringotomy was in 1649. Astley Cooper presented two papers to the Royal Society in 1801, based on his observation that myringotomy could improve hearing. Widespread inappropriate use of the procedure followed, with no benefit to patients; this led to it falling from favour for many decades. Hermann Schwartze reintroduced myringotomy later in the nineteenth century. It had been realised earlier that the tympanic membrane heals spontaneously, and much experimentation took place in attempting to keep the perforation open. The first described grommet was made of gold foil. Other materials were tried, including Politzer's attempts with rubber. Armstrong's vinyl tube effectively reintroduced grommets into current practice last century. There have been many eponymous variants, but the underlying principle of creating a perforation and maintaining it with a ventilation tube has remained unchanged. Recent studies have cast doubt over the long-term benefits of grommet insertion; is this the end of the third era?

(Published Online June 11 2007)
(Accepted March 23 2007)

Key Words: History; Otitis Media with Effusion; Middle Ear Ventilation; Grommet.

c1 Address for correspondence: Miss Joanne Rimmer, 39 Handforth Road, London SW9 0LL, UK. E-mail: