Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually done to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears.
CANDIDATES FOR OTOPLASTY:
The operation is done on children between the ages of 4 and 14 or adults at any age. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure. Ear surgery on adults is also possible, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.
CONSULTATION & PREPARATION:
Parents should stay alert to their child’s feelings about protruding ears; don’t insist on the surgery until your child wants the change. Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the surgery are generally more cooperative during the process and happier with the outcome. We will also give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery.
RISKS & COMPLICATIONS:
When ear surgery is performed,complications are infrequent and usually minor. Nevertheless, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. It may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a needle. Occasionally, patients develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area. Recurrence of the protrusion, may require second surgery.
Ear surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure.
If your child is young, we recommend general anesthesia, so the child will sleep through the operation. For older children or adults, we prefer to use local anesthesia, combined with a sedative.
The technique will depend on the problem. A small incision is taken on the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. The cartilage is sculpted and bent back toward the head. Non-removable stitches are used to help maintain the new shape. Occasionally, a larger piece of cartilage is removed to provide a more natural-looking fold when the surgery is complete. Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear. Skin is removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage.
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance.
THE RECOVERY PERIOD:
Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery. The patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication.
Within a few days, the bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head dressing similar toa headband. Be sure to follow our directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about a week. Most adults can go back to work about 5 days after surgery. Children can go back to school after 7 days or so, if they’re careful about playground activity.
THE NEW LOOK:
Most patients, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But don’t expect both ears to match perfectly-perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations with us before the operation, chances are, you’ll be quite pleased with the result.
OTHER EAR PROBLEMS
Besides protruding ears, there are a variety of other ear problems that can be helped with surgery. These include: “lop ear,” when the tip seems to fold down and forward; “cupped ear,” which is usually a very small ear; and “shell ear,” when the curve in the outer rim, as well as the natural folds and creases, are missing. Surgery can also improve large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with large creases and wrinkles. Surgeons can even build new ears for those who were born without them (microtia) or who lost them through injury (ear reconstruction)