Otoplasty, also known as protruding ear surgery, can make a huge difference in the way a person is viewed by others and the way he or she feels about themselves. It’s the one plastic surgery that is performed more frequently on children than on adults.
Historically speaking, it’s difficult to be taken seriously when your ears stick out. There’s no good reason for this. And yet it’s true. Ask any young child who has had to endure the jokes and jabs coming from his or her schoolmates. People with overly large ears or ears that protrude from the sides of their heads can have a difficult time of it. Years ago, protruding ears was just something a person had to live with. Now, with ear reduction surgery, also known as otoplasty, a short procedure can take care of the entire problem.
The Right Candidate for Otoplasty Surgery
To be the right candidate for ear pinning, the adult or child should be healthy enough for surgery and have ears that stick out noticeably from the sides of their head. Other reasons could include cupped and lop ears, large or stretched earlobes, shell ear and other abnormalities that warrant ear reshaping procedures.
An otoplasty is normally performed on adults or on children over the age of four. Ears are almost fully grown by the age of four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing the child will have to endure before the matter is corrected.
Preparing for Otoplasty
Any preparation for otoplasty in a child must consider the child’s own feelings. Strenuous objections on the part of the child must be considered a contraindication for surgery. Unrealistic expectations on the part of the parents should also be watched for. In general, for both children and adults, realistic expectations and a positive attitude are associated with better results and faster healing.
Adults and Children
Both children and adults will need to have a physical examination and possible blood tests before being scheduled for otoplasty. Patients are advised to tell their plastic surgeon about all medications and nutritional supplements they are currently taking. Dr. Ganchi will advise if any of the medications or supplements could cause complications during the procedure and during recovery. Aspirin and other medications known to thin the blood should be avoided for two weeks prior to surgery. We will go over all these details with you during your consultation.
Patients are also urged to quit smoking, as this habit can delay and complicate the healing process. Individuals are also asked to shower and shampoo their hair thoroughly before coming in for the procedure. Women should braid or pin back their hair and men should get a haircut or trim a day or two before surgery.
Otoplasty Procedure Techniques
Otoplasty is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic combined with a sedative. A very young child may need to have general anesthesia so they sleep through the entire operation.
A simple ear surgery, such as a pinning to correct protruding ears, usually takes about two to three hours. More complicated otoplasties may take longer. The specific technique or techniques used during the surgery will depend on the problem(s) the plastic surgeon is correcting.
One of the more commonly used techniques involves the surgeon making 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. The surgeon will remove cartilage, as needed, to provide a natural-looking fold when the surgery is complete. Stitches will be used to help maintain the new shape.
Another surgical technique also involves an incision in the back of the ear. However, during this procedure, skin is removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage.
Ear surgery normally leaves a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time. Surgery is usually performed on both ears, even when only one sticks out. This is done to ensure the best balance.
Recovery from Ear Surgery
By following the plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding aftercare, the patient can speed up their recovery and help us ensure he or she gets great results from the procedure.
At the end of the otoplasty, the patient’s head is wrapped to promote the best molding of the ear and proper healing. This will need to be worn for four or five days following surgery.
The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication. Stitches are usually removed or will dissolve, in about a week.
Once the bandage is removed, the patient will be instructed to wear a ski-type headband over the ears continuously for about a month. At the end of that month, the headband will still need to be worn at night for an additional two months.
Patients should avoid any contact sports for at least 6 weeks following the otoplasty procedure. Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for at least three months.
Each patient will receive specific instructions regarding hair washing and self-care before being sent home following surgery. These instructions should be carefully followed.
Results from Ear Pinning or More Extensive Otoplasty
The normal result of an ear pinning procedure is an ear that lies closer to the patient’s head without an overcorrected, “pinned-back” look. If a more complicated otoplasty has been performed, the expected result is that the ear operated on will closely resemble the other ear. If both ears are altered during surgery, the ears should look normal and appropriate to the patient’s head size.
As is the case with all surgeries, both major and minor, there are a few risks associated with otoplasty. These risks include:
- The possibility of a reaction to the anesthetic
- Possible bleeding or infection at the site of the incision
- Numbness around the area of the incision
- Formation of scar tissue (this can be corrected later)
- Reappearance of ear protrusion after an ear pinning otoplasty. If this is going to happen it will most likely to occur sometime during the first six months after surgery
- Formation of a hematoma (a collection of blood). In the case of an otoplasty, a hematoma can damage the results of the procedure because it can distort the final shape of the ear. Careful drying of the ear at the end of the procedure and application of a pressure bandage can reduce the risk of a hematoma
If you or your child has protruding ears and you would like to talk about having them surgically repaired, come in and talk to us. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.