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. This operation is typically done on children between the ages of four and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery is completed, 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.
What to Expect With an Otoplasty
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.
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.
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.
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.