Otoplasty

Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is aimed at reducing the size of the ears or their closeness to the head.

In most cases, this surgery is made in children from 4 to 14 years of age because the ears are almost fully grown at 4 and, as soon as the surgery is made, the child will have to face less jokes and ridicule.

This surgery is also viable in older patients and, in general, there are no additional risks related to age.

When this procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon, complications are minor and infrequent. A small percentage of patients develops blood cots in the ear, which is dissolved naturally or can be removed. Occasionally, patients suffer from infections in the cartilage that could generate a scar. Those infections are cured with antibiotics and they rarely require surgery to drain the infected area.

 

How to plan your treatment

Most surgeons recommend parents to pay attention to children’s complaints about their protruding ears, and they should not insist on surgery until the child complains about such abnormality. As long as the patient feels comfortable with that situation, its cooperation will increase during the process and it will be happier with the result.

First interview

The surgeon will evaluate the patient’s conditions and will recommend the most effective technique. In addition, it will provide specific instructions to prepare for surgery.

Where will the surgery take place?

This surgery is ambulatory and it is carried out in a duly authorized clinic although, in some cases, hospitalization until the day after is recommended. In that case, one of the parents will be required to spend the night with the child.

Types of anesthesia

If the person is young, it is recommended to use general anesthesia during the procedure. In the case of older children or adults, the surgeon will prefer using local anesthesia combined with a sedative to keep the patient awake but relaxed.

The procedure

This surgery generally takes from two to three hours, but more complicated procedures may take longer. The technique depends on the problem.

By using the most common technique, the surgeon makes a small incision at the back of the ear, which permits to expose the cartilage, sculpt it and bend it towards the head, closing it with non-removable stitches. Occasionally, a big portion of cartilage is extracted to obtain a more natural fold.

Another technique uses a similar incision but the skin is extracted and the stitches are used to bend the cartilage backwards over itself, reshaping the ear without extracting cartilage.

Commonly, this procedure leaves a slight scar at the back of the ear that disappears with time. Even though only one ear was abnormal, surgery will comprise both ears.

Back to normal

Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery, although it would be ideal to stay overnight at the clinic until the effects of anesthesia wear off.

The patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately after surgery to ensure the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little during the first days, but this can be relieved by medication.

In a few days the bulky bandage will be replaced by a smaller one similar to a headband. Make sure that you follow all surgeon’s instructions regarding the bandage use, especially at night. Stitches are usually removed or dissolved in a week from surgery.

Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or more. Most adults can go back to work five days after surgery, while children can resume their school activities after seven or eight days. Children should be careful when playing and their teachers will be warned to keep an eye on them during their extracurricular activities.

Other ear problems

Apart from protruding ears, there is a variety of other ear problems that can be improved with surgery, such as ‘lop ear’, when the tip seems to fold down and forward, ‘cupped ear’, which is usually a very small ear, and ‘shell ear’, when the folds and creases are missing. Surgery can also improve large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with wrinkles or large creases. Surgeons can even build new ears for patients who were born without them or who lost them as a result of a disease or injury.

Exceptionally, surgery scars can be worse than deformation itself. Therefore, it is advisable to consult this with your surgeon.

More natural-looking ears

Most patients, young and old alike, are delighted with the results of ear surgery. But remember that the goal is improvement, not perfection, so don’t expect a perfect symmetry that looks unnatural.

If the patient has discussed its expectations with the surgeon and the procedure before surgery, it will be satisfied with the result.