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Minnesota company's new device promises easier childhood ear surgery

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A Minnesota company's new medical device will soon make one of the country's most common childhood surgeries much easier – not only for your child, but possibly also for your pocketbook.

Invented by Plymouth-based Preceptis Medical, the Hummingbird Tympanostomy Tube System is designed to perform ear tube insertion – necessary for young patients with serious ear infections and other issues – quickly and in many cases without putting the child under anesthesia.

Having recently been given approval by the Food and Drug Administration, the device should be available in hospitals across the country in the spring of 2016, a Preceptis spokesperson told BringMeTheNews.

This is a potential coup for many families, as the device allows for moderate sedation (like laughing gas) as opposed to being "put under" with full-on anesthesia – something many parents of small children are not comfortable with, KSTP reports.

Additionally, the station says, this means the procedure can be performed outside the operating room, cutting costs for the hospital and the patient's family as well.

Preceptis says Hummingbird is the first such device cleared by the FDA for mild sedation.

Easier surgery

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the ear tube procedure typically involves the insertion of tiny cylinders through the ear drum, allowing air into the middle ear.

The organization says the ventilation tubes often become necessary when the patient suffers frequent ear infections, or has hearing loss due to a buildup of middle ear fluid – something that commonly occurs in children.

The website adds that it's the most common childhood surgery performed with anesthesia.

According to the Preceptis website, the Hummingbird device allows doctors to insert ear tubes "with less steps" and in "less time," so the patients typically will need only light sedation.

The company stresses, however, that for the time being, an anesthesiologist will be involved in the procedure and the operating room will still be an option, depending on the patient.

When will it be available?

While the FDA greenlit Hummingbird in April, the company is still conducting clinical trials with patients at four Minnesota hospitals (including the Mayo Clinic and at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital).

In the meantime, Preceptis says patients interested in the procedure can seek treatment at those hospitals with medical approval.

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