Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery, is a plastic surgery procedure that can improve the shape, position and proportion of the ear. It can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth, which becomes apparent with development. It can also treat misshapen ears caused by injuries.
Creating a natural shape, ear surgery brings balance and proportion to the ears and face. Studies have shown that correction of even minor deformities can have profound benefits to appearance and self-esteem. Specifically, ear surgery can treat:
- adult dissatisfaction with previous ear surgery
- overly large ears (macrotia)
- protruding ears occurring on one or both sides in varying degrees
Who Is a Good Candidate for Ear Surgery?
Children who are good candidates for ear surgery are:
- able to communicate their feelings and not voice objections when surgery is discussed
- cooperative and follow instructions well
- generally 5 years-old (or when a child’s ear cartilage is stable enough for correction)
- healthy, without a life-threatening illness or untreated chronic ear infections
Teenagers and adults are good candidates if:
- they are non-smokers
- if they have a positive outlook and specific goals in mind for ear surgery
- they are healthy and do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing
Risks and Safety Information
Before surgery, you will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable. Your surgeon will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo, alternatives and the common risks and potential complications.
Common risks include:
- anesthesia risks
- persistent pain
- poor wound healing
- possibility of revisional surgery
- skin color irregularities
- unfavorable scarring
Your surgeon will also provide you with specific information that may include advice on how to take care of your ears following surgery, medications to apply or to take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection, and when to follow-up with the surgeon. Should any complications occur after you go home, notify your plastic surgeon who will determine if any additional treatment is needed.
Do not subject the surgical incisions to excessive force, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Following your physician’s instructions is key to the success of your surgery!
Your complete candidness during consultation is vital for the success and safety of your procedure. You will need to be prepared to discuss:
- drug allergies
- medical conditions
- medical treatments
- previous surgeries
- use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplement, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- why you want the procedure
- your expectations and desired outcome
Your surgeon will evaluate your health status, pre-existing health conditions and risk factors, will take photographs for your medical record and will discuss your options, likely outcomes, risks and potential complications, as well as recommending a course of treatment.
How Do I Prepare for Surgery?
Prior to surgery you may be asked to get a lab testing or medical evaluation, take certain medications or adjust current medications, stop smoking well in advance of surgery and avoid taking aspirin and certain anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, as they can increase bleeding.
Procedure Steps, Recovery and Final Results
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications will be administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. Choices include local, IV sedation or general anesthesia, but your surgeon will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The Incision
Surgical techniques are used to create or increase the antihelical fold (just inside the rim of the ear) and to reduce enlarged conchal cartilage (the largest and deepest concavity of the external ear) in the correction of protruding ears. When incisions are needed on the front of the ear, they are made within its folds to hide them. For creating and securing the newly shaped cartilage in place, internal, non-removable sutures are used.
Step 3 – Closing the Incisions
During this step, the surgeon closes the incision using external stitches. Techniques are individualized, taking care not to distort other structures and to avoid the “pinned back” appearance.
Step 4 – Results
Surgery offers near immediate results in cases of protruding ears, visible once the dressings that support the new shape of the ear during initial phases of healing are removed. The results of more extensive ear surgery and reconstruction may appear in stages over time.
Discomfort following ear surgery is normal and can be controlled with pain medication. There may be an itchy feeling under bandages but it is essential that they remain intact and are not removed, for any reason. Failure to keep the bandages in place may result in loss of some of the correction and may require a secondary intervention.