Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of a person’s ears. Although otoplasty does not affect hearing, it can provide great psychological benefits to anyone who has been teased about the size or shape of their ears, has had a serious ear injury, or simply wants to improve their appearance.
Otoplasty typically serves two functions: setting prominent ears back closer to the head, and reducing the size of large ears. Ear surgery may also be helpful for the following conditions:
- Large or protruding ears
- Lop ear (top of the ear folds downward or inward)
- Cupped ear (a small ear)
- Shell ear (no outer curve in the cartilage)
- Large, stretched, or torn earlobes
- Earlobes with large creases and wrinkles
Surgeons are also able to construct new ears for patients who are missing them from injury or other causes.
CANDIDATES FOR OTOPLASTY
Candidates for otoplasty may be anyone who feels self-conscious about their ears and wants to improve their appearance. Although the operation is most often performed on children aged four to fourteen, this procedure can be very beneficial to people of all ages. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and early surgery can prevent a child from being teased in school.
It is also important that you are in good general health and have realistic expectations about the outcome of the procedure. Discuss your goals of otoplasty with your surgeon so that you can achieve the results you desire.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF OTOPLASTY?
Otoplasty is one of the most minimally-invasive plastic surgery procedures performed today. And yet, it can achieve life-changing benefits. The procedure is often performed on children or teens whose ears protrude or are misshapen. The benefit to young people, especially our youngest patients, is that they may avoid the unwarranted teasing that tends to happen to kids who “look different.” The conservative procedure does not take long to perform, nor to recover from. Within about a week, you or your child may be ready to go back to work or school with adequate ear protection in place. In addition to the social benefits for young children, otoplasty can also significantly improve one’s sense of self-confidence. Having ears that sit normally and are in good proportion to the head, it becomes possible to admire all of the things there are to appreciate about one’s appearance overall! When you feel good in your skin, you behave more confidently in your life, and that has a ripple effect through all areas.
WHAT CONDITIONS DOES OTOPLASTY TREAT?
The otoplasty procedure is often referred to as ear pinning, but that is only one technique that might be used. Ear surgery can also correct the size of the ears, the shape and structure of the cartilage that makes up the outer edge of the ears, and the appearance of the earlobes.
HOW DOES THE OTOPLASTY PROCEDURE WORK?
Otoplasty may pin the ears so they sit closer to the head. The surgeon may also perform otoplasty to augment the ear so it looks larger. Ear augmentation increases ear size so there is better proportion with the size of the head. Conversely, otoplasty may focus on reducing an oversized ear. The term used to describe an oversized ear is macrotia. This condition may occur due to various genetic mutations. Essentially, otoplasty works by correcting ear shape and size using a customized approach that achieves rewarding, natural-looking results.
CAN I HAVE OTOPLASTY AS AN ADULT?
Many otoplasty procedures are performed on children. There is no functional reason to correct ear shape or size, but there are plenty of other reasons to do so! Regardless of your age, you can choose to undergo otoplasty simply so you can feel more satisfied with your appearance. Adult otoplasty is performed in the office using a local anesthetic. The procedure does not hurt, and your post-procedure discomfort is expected to be manageable with rest and appropriate medication. To ensure that you are a good candidate for adult otoplasty, Dr. Turk will carefully review your medical history and current health, including medications you may take. After an examination of your ear shape and size, the doctor will discuss expectations in terms of how much improvement otoplasty may achieve. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if anything about the procedure or the expected outcome is unclear. It is important to be on the same page and to feel confident both in your surgeon’s skill and in your ability to be happy with the cosmetic results of your procedure.
WHEN CAN I EXPECT TO SEE RESULTS?
You can expect to see some of the results of your otoplasty procedure soon after surgery. The doctor may have you look at your ears before they are bandaged so you can observe the changes. Of course, there will be redness and swelling at first. It can take up to two weeks for these side effects to subside. For the first week, your ears will be covered by a protective garment. This helps minimize swelling while also buffering the ears from accidental touching, rubbing, or pressure. After a week or two, the majority of swelling and redness should be gone, giving you an accurate measure of your final improvement.
WHEN CAN A CHILD HAVE PROTRUDING EARS SURGICALLY CORRECTED?
Prominent ears in children are a common problem that can lead to teasing in elementary school. Usually the ears are protruding from the scalp with loss of folding of the skin and cartilage. The pinning back of the ears or otoplasty is a surgical procedure to restore a normal shape. The surgery is performed when 85% of the ear growth has occurred, about 6 years of age.
The surgery requires local or general anesthesia and performed in an outpatient surgical center. The surgical incisions are hidden behind the crease of the ear, so no surgical scars are visible. The recovery is 7 to 10 days. For any further information call 239-348-4357.
THE OTOPLASTY PROCEDURE
Otoplasty, also known as ear pinning, generally lasts two to three hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used typically depends on the age of the patient. General anesthesia is recommended for very young patients, while local anesthesia and a sedative may be used for older children and adults.
The otoplasty procedure begins with a small incision made behind the ear, in the natural crease where the ear meets the head. The cartilage is then sculpted and bent into its new position to achieve the desired appearance. In some types of otoplasty, skin is removed but the cartilage is left in one piece and merely bent back on itself for a smaller-looking ear.
After sculpting the cartilage to the preferred shape, sutures are used to hold the ear in the new position until healing is complete. A bandage is then wrapped around the head to ensure the new positioning. To achieve better balance, both ears may be operated on even if only one has a problem.
Patients of all ages usually feel back to normal after a few hours, although the ears may ache or throb for a few days. Prescription medication will be made available to help alleviate any discomfort.
A few days after the otoplasty procedure, the bandages around your head will be replaced with a surgical dressing that should be worn for about one week. The stitches will be removed within one week. Otoplasty patients should avoid sleeping on their side for the first two weeks after surgery.
After about one week following otoplasty, children may return to school and adults are often able to return to work and resume normal daily activities. After the ears have healed completely, there will usually be a faint scar on the back of the ears. However, because of the strategic placement of the incisions in ear surgery, the scars should be virtually unnoticeable and will typically fade with time.
RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS OF OTOPLASTY
As with all surgery, there are risks associated with otoplasty. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. This generally dissolves naturally or can be treated with a needle. Another potential risk is an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. This can usually be treated with antibiotics, but may occasionally require surgery. Also, you should not expect your new ears to match exactly; even normal, natural ears are not identical.
Complications are rare and usually minor, and can typically be minimized by choosing a qualified and experienced surgeon and by carefully following your surgeon’s aftercare instructions.