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A child with protruding ears is often subjected to unkind remarks that can be a source of significant distress. This lack of peer acceptance makes a child feel self-conscious or rejected. Even as an adult, the same childhood sensitivities may persist. Fortunately, an otoplasty can help fix this condition.
What is otoplasty?
Otoplasty is the process for reconstructing damaged, deformed, or missing outer ears due to a congenital condition or an accident.
The size, shape and natural position of the ear is an inherited characteristic. As the ears form, they develop several natural folds. If development is incomplete, a deformed or protruding ear will result.
Fortunately, we can reposition prominent or protruding ears closer to the head with this procedure.
What is the otoplasty procedure?
First, anesthesia will be administered. This can be either local or general anesthesia, depending on the patient and their needs. We use general anesthesia for small children while adults generally prefer local anesthesia with intravenous sedation.
During the procedure, your doctor will make incisions either on the back or your ears or on the inner creases, depending on the technique your surgeon chooses and what specific treatment your ears need. Your doctor will then remove excess cartilage and skin if necessary and will secure the cartilage into the proper position with stitches. More stitches will be used to close the incisions.
The operating time is approximately two hours. We can assure you that the operation has no effect on hearing.
After the procedure, your ears will be bandaged. Pain medication will be prescribed if necessary and should only be taken per your doctor’s instructions. Your doctor will remove the bandages after a few days, although you may have to wear a protective headband at night when you sleep.
If your stitches do not dissolve on their own, your doctor will have to remove them.
Who is a candidate for otoplasty?
Most individuals undergo this surgery during the early school years, ages 5-7, but the procedure can be performed at any age, even adolescence or adulthood. The visual improvement with this type of plastic surgery is usually dramatic.
After your doctor takes off your bandages, you will see that your ears are already no longer protruding, and any damage should be repaired. These are permanent changes.
After we remove your bandage, your ears may appear slightly overcorrected, or flat. Be patient; this is to be expected. Once your ears have healed, they will acquire a more normal position.
You may experience swelling and discoloration to varying degrees following the operation. This resolves in one to two weeks. You should sleep flat on your back with the head of your bed elevated for two weeks following surgery.
You will need to wear an Ace wrap or ski band at night for two to three weeks to maintain the position of your ears and to encourage their healing. A child can usually return to school in one week, resuming normal physical activities by two weeks. If you wear glasses, you will need to be careful that they do not rest on your ears for at least two weeks.
Are there any limitations or risks to ear surgery?
The goal of surgery is improvement, not perfection. Perfect symmetry is not a reasonable expectation of this operation. Subtle asymmetries, which existed before the surgery, may still be present afterwards. Significant degrees of difference may, however, require some secondary revision.
Infection and bleeding are the most common complications following this surgery. We use broad-spectrum antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. Rarely, one of the sutures behind the ear may break loose, in which case we will remove or replace the suture.