If You’re Considering Ear Surgery…

Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually done to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears.

For the most part, the operation is done on children between the ages of four and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure. Ear surgery on   adults is also possible, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.

If you’re considering ear surgery for yourself or your child, this   information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure-when it can   help, how it’s performed, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all   of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please be sure to ask your doctor if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.

All Surgery Carries Some Uncertainty and Risk

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.

Planning For Surgery

Most surgeons recommend that parents stay alert to their child’s feelings   about protruding ears; don’t insist on the surgery until your child wants the   change. Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the surgery   are generally more cooperative during the process and happier with the   outcome.

In the initial meeting, your surgeon will evaluate your child’s condition, or   yours if you are considering surgery for yourself, and recommend the most   effective technique. He or she will also give you specific instructions on how   to prepare for surgery.

Where The Surgery Will Be Performed

Ear surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital, a   doctor’s office-based surgical facility, or a freestanding surgery center.   Occasionally, your doctor may recommend that the procedure be done as an   inpatient procedure, in which case you can plan on staying overnight in the   hospital.

Types of Anesthesia

If your child is young, your surgeon may recommend general anesthesia, so the   child will sleep through the operation. For older children or adults, the   surgeon may prefer to use local anesthesia, combined with a sedative, so you or   your child will be awake but relaxed.

The Surgery

Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although complicated   procedures may take longer. The technique will depend on the problem.

With one of the more common techniques, the surgeon makes a small incision in   the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. He or she will then sculpt the   cartilage and bend it back toward the head. Non-removable stitches may be used   to help maintain the new shape. Occasionally, the surgeon will remove a larger   piece of cartilage to provide a more natural-looking fold when the surgery is   complete.

Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear. Skin is   removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape   the ear without removing cartilage.

In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear   that will fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is   usually performed on both ears for a better balance.

Getting Back to Normal

Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery,   although you may prefer to stay overnight in the hospital with a child until all   the effects of general anesthesia wear off.

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

Within a few days, the bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head   dressing similar to a headband. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s directions for   wearing this dressing, especially at night.

Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about a week.

Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or   so. Most adults can go back to work about five days after surgery. Children can   go back to school after seven days or so, if they’re careful about playground   activity. You may want to ask your child’s teacher to keep an eye on the child   for a few weeks.

Other Ear Problems

Besides protruding ears, there are a variety of other ear problems that can   be helped with surgery. These include: 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 curve in the outer rim, as well as the natural folds and creases, are   missing. Surgery can also improve large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with   large creases and wrinkles. Surgeons can even build new ears for those who were   born without them or who lost them through injury.

Sometimes, however, the correction can leave a scar that’s worse than the   original problem. Ask your surgeon about the effectiveness of surgery for your   specific case.

More Natural-Looking Ears

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.