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 otoplasty. Most individuals undergo this surgery during the early school years, ages 5-7, but otoplasty can be performed at any age, even adolescence or adulthood. The visual improvement with this type of plastic surgery is usually dramatic.
We perform the surgery on an outpatient basis, removing cartilage and skin through incisions placed behind the ear. The remaining cartilage is remodeled to create the normal ear folds. We can assure you that the operation has no effect on hearing.
We use general anesthesia for small children while adults generally prefer local anesthesia with intravenous sedation. The operating time is approximately two hours. Following the surgery, we place a bandage around your ears for protection and to minimize swelling.
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 a least two weeks.
The goal of surgery is improvement, nor 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.
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. This makes the results or otoplasty rewarding for the patient and for the doctor.