A retrospective study with review, after 3 years, of 43 children between the ages of 4 and 13 years, who had bilateral otitis media with effusion treated surgically purely by the insertion of grommets is described. The results shows that the younger the child at initial grommet insertion, the greater the likelihood of more than 1 grommet insertion being required (P < 0.05). A younger patient is likely to make a greater number of outpatient visits (P < 0.05), and the number of outpatient visits correlates with the number of grommets inserted (P < 0.01). At 3 years, 49% of children remained on regular outpatient follow-up, while 34% of children had persisting effusion in 1 or more ears. Whilst grommets are in place, otorrhoea is not adversely influenced by swimming. The role of adenoidectomy in the management of otitis media with effusion is not assessed by this study.