Otoplasty - Ear Reshaping Surgery Treatment


Ear Surgery | Ear Reshaping Cosmetic Surgery Clinic

What is Otoplasty?

Ear surgery – also known as otoplasty – can improve the shape, position or proportion of the ear. It can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth, or it can treat misshapen ears caused by injury.

Who is a good candidate for cosmetic ear surgery?

Most patients undergo otoplasty, or cosmetic ear surgery, to reduce the size of large ears or have prominent ears “pinned back” closer to the head.

Most otoplasty procedures are performed on children between 5 and 14-years-of-age. Generally our ears are nearly fully developed by the age of five, allowing for the surgery to be performed. Since school-yard teasing and ridicule can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, many parents seek-out otoplasty for their children at an early age. Of course, ear surgery can be performed to reshape adult ears as well, to increase self-esteem and improve appearance.

Are there safety concerns associated with cosmetic ear surgery?

Though thousands of children and adults undergo otoplasty each year and experience no major complications, the procedure does carry some degree risk. It is important you be well informed of these risks when considering surgery. During your consultation, we will discuss these potential complications with you, listen to your safety questions, and offer instructions on how to minimize the risk.

Potential complications include blood clotting on the ear in a small percentage of patients. If these clots don’t dissolve naturally, they can be drawn out with a needle. Infection in the ear cartilage is also a rare risk with otoplasty. In some cases, this can cause unwanted scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; though rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.

Planning for otoplasty surgery

Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the otoplasty procedure tend to be more cooperative during surgery and happier with the results. Parents should not insist their child undergo otoplasty.

In the initial consultation the surgeon will evaluate you or your child’s ear structure, depending on who’s undergoing the procedure, and recommend a treatment plan. He will also offer instructions on how to prepare for surgery.

Types of anesthesia

The surgeon prefers general anesthesia in order to allow ample time to get the most natural result. In selected cases, however, a local anesthesia combined with a sedative is sufficient. In these instances, the patient will be awake but relaxed throughout the procedure.

The surgery

Cosmetic ear surgery takes about four to six hours to achieve the most natural result when re-shaping both ears. Complicated procedures sometimes may take longer. The duration of the surgery and the surgical technique used will depend on the issues being addressed.

The procedure uses a small incision in the natural fold behind the ear. The ear cartilage will be exposed, sculpted and folded back toward the head. Non-removable stitches may be used to secure the cartilage into position. In rare cases, cartilage is removed to improve shape but in most cases the surgeon sculpts the ear and re-shapes the cartilages without removing cartilage. To ensure symmetry and balance, surgery is typically performed on both ears, even when only one appears to protrude.

A faint scar in the back of the ear should be expected after surgery, though it will eventually fade with time.

Otoplasty recovery

Patients are generally up and around within a few hours of the procedure and allowed to return home soon after. In cases where general anesthesia is used on a child, however, some parents prefer an overnight hospital stay. You should expect the patient’s head to be wrapped in a bandage immediately after surgery. This is to promote molding and healing of the ears and should be worn for 2-3 days. Eventually the bandage will be replaced by a less-bulky dressing, similar to a headband. It is important the dressing be worn as directed.

Some throbbing or aching should be expected for the first few days. This pain is generally minimal and well-controlled with medication. Stitches are usually removed in about a week or dissolve on their own.

Adults typically return to work about five days after surgery. Most children can return to school after seven days or so. Children need to be careful about playground activity, however. The ears will need to be protected from bending and pressure for the first six months.

Other cosmetic ear issues

Though protruding ears is the issue most seek otoplasty to correct, there are a variety of other cosmetic ear issues that can be addressed with plastic surgery as well. These issues include:

  • Cupped ear: a disproportionately small ear
  • Lop ear: where the ear tip folds downward
  • Shell ear: where the folds, creases and outer rim of the ear is missing
  • Earlobe issues: disproportionately large or stretched earlobes, or earlobes with wrinkles or creases

In some instances, entire ears can be constructed for those without them due to birth defect or trauma.

In these instances, careful consultation with your plastic surgeon is essential. Some cosmetic ear surgeries can leave noticeable scarring. The pros and cons of individual ear surgeries should be carefully discussed and weighed before proceeding.

Otoplasty results

After healing, many patients experience an increased level of comfort with their overall appearance. Though most patients are very happy with their results, those expecting perfection rather than improvement are often disappointed. Expectations such as perfectly symmetrical ears are not realistic. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations with your surgeon before the operation, chances are, you’ll be quite pleased with the result.

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