Otoplasty – Ear Reshaping Surgery
Ear reshaping or ear correction, also known as otoplasty, refers to any non-surgical or surgical cosmetic procedure performed to alter the appearance of the external part of the ear.
This ear reshaping is often done on children who have a cosmetic defect of one or both of their ears. This problem may be present from birth, or in some cases, becomes apparent, as the child gets older.
This procedure is also performed on adults who have had their ears injured in an accident or who have decided the time has come to correct a cosmetic situation with their ears that’s been bothering them since childhood.
Otoplasty can correct a variety of cosmetic irregularities, including:
- Overly prominent or protruding ears
- Ears that are unusually large in relation to the head
- Lop ear (the tip of the ear folds down and forward)
- Shell ear (the curve of the outer rim of the ear and well as the natural fold and creases are missing)
- Cupped ear (ear that is very small)
- Large or stretched earlobes
- Lobes with obvious creases or wrinkles
- Other abnormalities in the shape, size or other appearance of the ear
- Ears that have been disfigured through accident or injury
An experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon can even build new ears for patients who have been born without the external portion of the ear or for a patient who has lost one or more of their ears through accident or injury.
Ear Reshaping Procedures
Typically, ear reshaping surgery is performed on both ears. This tends to ensure symmetry between the two ears. Otoplasty can be done any time after the ears have reached their full size, usually after the age of 5.
The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis at the plastic surgeon’s clinic but can be performed in a hospital environment when that seems more appropriate.
The procedure is usually done under local anesthetic or local anesthetic with sedation. However, if the surgery is extensive or the patient is a young child, the surgeon may opt for using general anesthesia. The exact steps of the procedure will depend on the situation being addressed.
In the case of protruding ears, the cartilage is reshaped to the desired look and re-positioned closer to the head with stitches placed behind the ear. This procedure is called ear pinning and is a specific type of otoplasty. The surgeon may need to remove cartilage and skin behind the ears. Permanent and dissolving sutures (stitches) are used to close any openings in the outer ear made by the plastic surgeon and to pin the ears in place. Most people seek ear pinning or otoplasty for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons.
When the patient’s ears need to be made smaller or altered in shape, the plastic surgeon will make an incision behind the ear. He will raise the skin off the underlying cartilage, trim and reshape the outer ear, remove excess cartilage, and close with either dissolving sutures or ones that will be removed after the wounds have healed.
Infrequently, a child may be born without well-developed ears. Their hearing may even be deficient, along with the failure of development of the auricle (the part of the ear projecting from the head). Major reconstruction of the ear is then required. Generally, this requires the harvesting of rib cartilage, which is shaped and implanted into the area of the missing auricle. This procedure requires a highly trained and specialized plastic surgeon.
The actual procedure that will be performed by the plastic surgeon will depend upon the patient’s specific needs. Obviously, the surgery performed to correct the shape and size of ears that are overly large will incorporate some sort of reduction technique. However, when a plastic surgeon is correcting ears that are unusually small or have failed to develop completely, such as a cupped ear or shell ear, cartilage will be taken from another area of the body to be used in the operation.
Results of cosmetic ear reshaping are permanent and can be seen as soon as healing is complete. An ear reshaping procedure (otoplasty) does not alter the placement of the ears nor does it affect the patient’s ability to hear.
Ear Reshaping Healing and Recovery
As with any surgical procedure, the area of the body that has been operated on (the ears) will need to be correctly cared for in the days and weeks following the surgery.
The patient will receive specific post-operative instructions from their plastic surgeon and his staff, and will receive an appointment to return to the office within a few days of the surgery to have their ears checked and the dressings changed.
When patients leave the office after ear correction surgery, they will have some form of dressing on both ears and the surrounding areas of the head.
He or she will need to keep the dressings on and around their ears clean and dry to help prevent infection, to maintain the new position of the ears and to aid the healing process. The patient will be asked to wear a wide elastic band over the ears at night to prevent them from bending during sleep. For both adults and children, ears should not be bent for at least 6 weeks or more.
For the first several days after surgery, the patient should maintain head elevation as much as possible. He or she should sleep propped up on pillows. Obeying this instruction will help reduce the swelling caused by the ear surgery.
Mild swelling may persist for many weeks in some patients. Bruising typically disappears within 7 to 10 days and stitches are usually removed within a week. If dissolving sutures are used, there is no need to remove them.
The amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals. Usually, the patient will be able to return to work (or school) in 7 to 10 days following surgery and can get back to sports, exercise, and the gym in 4 to 6 weeks. The patient should check with the surgeon before the patient engages in any rough physical activity or contact sport.
Risks Connected with Ear Reshaping
Ear reshaping surgery has been done successfully for many, many years. However, as is the case with any other surgical procedure, an otoplasty comes with a number of risks, including risk of infection, bleeding and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Sometimes, an ear that has been pinned back can return to its old prominent position.
Other risks that pertain specifically to ear reshaping are:
- Changes to the skin sensation in the area of the ear (this is usually temporary)
- Minor scarring
- Ears incorrectly placed or changed, causing an asymmetrical appearance
- Recurrence of the problem causing the need for revision surgery
- Overcorrection creating unnatural contours that make the ears appear pinned back too close to the head.
If you are considering ear reshaping for yourself or your child, schedule a consultation with Dr. Ganchi. He will be happy to listen to your concerns and to go over your options with you.