Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a surgical process to reshape the ear, and to set prominent ears back closer to the head. A variety of different techniques and approaches may be used to reshape congenital prominence in the ears or to restore damaged ears. Each individual seeking otoplasty is unique both in terms of the appearance of their ears and expectations for results following otoplasty surgery. It is important that you fully discuss your expectations with your surgeon prior to surgery.
The best candidates for ear surgery (otoplasty) are children between the ages of four and 14. The surgery can be done on adults as well. One reason to have the procedure at an earlier age is so that there is less teasing and self-esteem problems. One must wait until he/she is at least four years old, because that is when the ear is finished growing.
Ear surgery is very well tolerated. Complications are very minimal and minor; however please check with your surgeon about specific complications associated with this procedure.
Post-operative complications such as infection and blood clots on the ear are rare, but can occur. Infection can be treated with drainage and antibiotics, but will prolong your hospital stay. The blood clot may dissolve on its own or may have to be aspirated with a needle.
You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following your surgeon’s instructions before and after the surgery, especially with regard to when and how you should resume physical activity.
In your initial consultation, your surgeon will evaluate your (or your child’s) health as well as determine the best technique for ear surgery. Be sure to tell the surgeon if you smoke, and if you’re taking any medications, vitamins, or other drugs.
Be frank in discussing your expectations with your surgeon. He or she will determine whether or not you are a good candidate as well as describe your alternatives and the risks and limitations of each.
Your surgeon will also review type of anesthesia, hospital stay, and recovery during your consultation. If you have specific questions please feel free to ask.
You will be given specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins, and medications. It is important that if anything in your health history changes to notify the office.
If you smoke, plan to quit at least two months before your surgery and not to resume for at least two months after your surgery. If you develop a cold or infection of any kind, your surgery will probably be postponed. Again it is very important to notify the office if you have been unable to quit smoking or if you develop an illness.
Whether your surgery is done on an outpatient or inpatient basis, you should arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery, and to help you out for a day or two after you leave the hospital.
Your surgeon will perform your procedure in a hospital or outpatient surgery center.
Your surgery may be done under general anesthesia, so you’ll sleep through the operation. Sometimes it can be done using local anesthesia with IV sedation. Please check at your consultation which type of anesthesia is best for you.
Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although complicated procedures may take longer. The technique will depend on the problem.
With one of the more common techniques, the surgeon makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. He will then sculpt the cartilage and bend it back toward the head. Non-removable stitches may be used to help maintain the new shape. Occasionally, the surgeon will remove a larger piece of cartilage 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.
Your head will be wrapped in a bandage immediately after surgery. This will help healing and the ear shape. You’re likely to feel some pain and discomfort which can be controlled by medication. Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may be released within a few hours or you may have to remain hospitalized overnight.
You will be given instructions for showering and changing your dressings. Usually the bulky dressing can be changed within a few days and it will be replaced by a garment that wraps around the head covering the ears. This will continue to help mold and heal the surgical site.
Most people are able to return to work/school in about a week. If external sutures are used, they can be removed in 5-7 days. It is important to avoid any activity that would bend the ear for 1-2 months following surgery.
Ear surgery provides great results if you have realistic expectations. The goal of this surgery is improvement, not perfection. Please discuss the procedure fully with your surgeon as well as what you can expect for results.