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Getting Cosmetic Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)

The term otoplasty refers to any surgical or non-surgical procedure performed to alter the shape, appearance, or size of the external ear.

An otoplasty can treat overly large ears or ears that are overly prominent, sticking out on one or both sides.

This procedure is frequently done on children where a defect in the exterior ear structure is seen to be present from birth or becomes apparent as the child grows.

The procedure is also performed on adults who have decided it’s time to correct ears that have been misshapen since birth or from accident or injury.

The cosmetic problems otoplasty is used to correct are:

  • Ears that stick out too far from the head
  • Ears that are too large in proportion to the head and other facial features
  • Abnormally shaped ears
  • Ears that have been disfigured by accident or injury

Procedure

An otoplasty is typically done on both ears in order to optimize symmetry. It can be done any time after the ears have reached their full size, usually after the individual has reached the age of 5.

The surgery, performed on both ears, is done on an out-patient basis and takes approximately 2 to 4 hours. It’s usually done under local anesthetic, sometime general, depending on the situation and the age and maturity of the patient.

For protruding ears, the cartilage is reshaped to the desired look and repositioned closer to the head with stitches placed behind the ear.

In the case of ears that need to be reduced in size, the plastic surgeon will make an incision in the outside surface of the ear where she will remove excess skin and cartilage. The incisions are closed with either dissolvable sutures or ones that will be removed by a doctor after the wounds have healed.

Results of an otoplasty are permanent and can be seen as soon as healing is complete.

Otoplasty does not change the location of the ears, nor does it alter the ability to hear.

Recovery and Healing Time

Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete post-operative instructions and you will be asked to return to the office within a few days of your surgery to have your ears checked and the dressing changed.

After otoplasty surgery, the ears and portions of the head are covered with bulky dressings. You will need to keep the dressing clean and dry. This protection helps maintain the new position of the ears and aids the healing process. A wide elastic band is worn over the ears at night to prevent them from bending during sleep. For both adults and children, ears should not be bent for at least a month or more.

For the first several days after surgery the patient should maintain head elevation as much as possible. He or she should sleep propped up on pillows. This will help reduce the swelling caused by the ear surgery.

Mild swelling may persist for many weeks in some patients. Bruising typically disappears within 7 to 10 days and stitches are usually removed within a week.

The amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals. Usually, the patient will be able to return to work (or school) in 7 to 10 days following surgery, and can get back to sports, exercise, and the gym in 4 to 6 weeks.

Risks Connected with Otoplasty

As with any other type of major surgery, otoplasty poses the risk of infection, bleeding and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

Other risks that pertain specifically to otoplasty are:

  • Changes to the skin sensation on the area of the ear (this is usually temporary)
  • Minor scarring
  • Ears incorrectly placed or changed, causing an asymmetrical appearance
  • Recurrence of the problem causing the need for revision surgery
  • Overcorrection creating unnatural contours that make the ears appear pinned back to the head.

If you or your child have ears that are misshapen or sticking out otoplasty may be the answer.