Otoplasty is an operation designed to bring the ears closer to the side of the head. It may also improve their shape. School age children often undergo this surgery. Classmates may unmercifully tease children with name-calling such as “dumbo”. This relatively simple procedure can produce a great result and relief for a child. It is not limited to children though. Adults are also candidates.
An otoplasty creates several changes in the ear. They are all natural looking and to someone unaware that you have had surgery it is unlikely they would think that your ear had been surgically altered. These changes are: 1) A less prominent earlobe – resulting in less space for an earring. 2) A flatter concha. The concha is the cup-like area surround the ear canal. Sutures placed in the cartilage flatten it. 3) A more shallow sulcus. The normal groove behind the ear is known as the retroauricular sulcus. This change may effect the way your glasses fit.
The primary incision is placed behind the ear where it is very unnoticeable. Sutures are then placed along the cartilage of the ear. This makes the cup portion of the ear shallower and causes the ear to lie closer to the head. These are permanent sutures that remain under the overlying skin. The shape of the ear can also be changed by surgically weakening the cartilage in strategic areas. Following this shaping, any excess skin is removed. The skin in closed with removable sutures. A large head dressing is applied. Fluffs are placed around the ear to protect and then the head is wrapped in a turban fashion. General anesthesia is most effective for young children. Older, cooperative children and adults can have this procedure with local anesthesia. This is commonly done as an outpatient procedure.
The day after surgery the head dressing is removed to check the surgical site. A dressing should be used for one or two weeks. You can be instructed in this and change the dressing daily on your own. At two weeks, normal daily activities are resumed however contact sports are to be avoided for three months. The ears can be wrapped at night for comfort.
Some people have stiff cartilage. If this is the case it is useful to wear an elastic headband over the ears. This constant pressure will keep the sutures from pulling out. This may be used for 2-3 months if necessary. In the first few days the ears are swollen and tender. Because of the swelling it is hard to appreciate the results. These postoperative symptoms resolve within a few days. You may experience numbness and tingly of the ears for several weeks. Within a few weeks the ears will look quite normal.
When ear surgery is performed by a qualified, experienced surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. It may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a needle. Occasionally, patients develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. Don’t expect both ears to match perfectly-perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations with the surgeon before the operation, chances are, you’ll be quite pleased with the result.
When reviewing information about specific plastic surgery procedures, it is important to understand that the circumstances and experience of every individual are unique. If you are considering plastic surgery, please ask your plastic surgeon for further information about the particular procedure and what you can expect.