Prominent or protruding ears can be a source of embarrassment and mental anguish for many people, especially children. In the past few decades, thousands of individuals have been physically as well as psychologically helped through a surgical procedure called otoplasty. Otoplasty, sometimes described as “pinning back” the ears, is designed to change their shape and contour. It may be performed on anyone over the age of five or six years old, the age at which ear growth is almost complete. For those children with severely protruding ears, it is recommended that the surgery be performed at an early age, before they are subjected to psychological stress related to the condition.
A complete medical history is acquired prior to surgery in order to evaluate the general health of the patient. The patient will also be carefully examined and the patient, or guardian in the case of a minor, and Dr. Graper will discuss how the ears should look and what can realistically be expected. After the examination Dr. Graper will explain the type of anesthesia that will be used, the procedure, the expected results, and the possible risks and complications. The next step will be to take photographs, which will allow both the patient and Dr. Graper to evaluate the degree of improvement. The patient will then be given their preoperative instructions which may include instructions to shampoo their hair with an antiseptic shampoo the night before surgery.
Otoplasty can be performed under sedation/anesthesia supplements by local anesthesia. There are several surgical procedures which are designed to bring the ears closer to the head. A basic procedure involves an incision made at the back of the ear to expose firm, pliable tissue called cartilage. The surgeon may either fold down the cartilage and use sutures to keep the folds together or remove excess cartilage. After reshaping the cartilage, the incisions are closed with small sutures and the ears are covered with bandages. The procedure can take up to two hours or more depending upon the extent of surgery.
Pain connected with the surgery is minimal to moderate and is controlled with oral medication. Bandages are removed within a few days but may be replaced with a lighter head dressing. Wearing a tennis headband for a period of time to hold back the ears may also be recommended. Bruising around the area occurs but this condition can be alleviated by keeping the head elevated when reclining. Patients may be advised to sleep on a soft pillow but not directly on the ears. Six to eight days after surgery, patients may be allowed to shampoo their hair. Scars from the incisions fade significantly in time and are, for the most part, inconspicuous because the incisions are made within the creases of the ears. Although patients are usually up and around one or two days after surgery, the decision as to when normal activities can be resumed is determined by the physician and is based on the extent of surgery and the patient’s healing process.
Each year thousands of otoplasties are successfully performed. Occasionally a second procedure is necessary if an ear begins to protrude again. Complications of infection are rare; however, there are certain inherent risks connected with every surgical procedure which should be thoroughly discussed with the physician prior to surgery. Patients can minimize complications by carefully following directions given by the physician.
If you are interested in learning more about cosmetic surgery of the ears, please contact our office and we will be happy to answer your questions.