What is otoplasty?
Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery or ear pinning, is a procedure that reshapes or repositions the external portion of the ear for the purpose of improving proportion and cosmetic appearance. This procedure can correct a defect that has been present since birth or which has resulted from an injury.
Who is a candidate for otoplasty?
Otoplasty is often performed during childhood or the teenage years, but may also be obtained by healthy adults. Doctors often recommend ear surgery for children due to the social and emotional issues that a child faces when ears are dramatically out of proportion.
Younger patients are good candidates for surgery when they:
- Have reached full physical maturity in the ear area
- Are generally healthy, without severe medical condition or ear infection
- Can follow the strict instructions required for recovery
- Are able to communicate their feelings well
Teens can be good candidates for otoplasty when they:
- Are in good general health
- Have specific goals and a positive outlook on their potential surgery
- Have realistic expectations and can understand what is and isn’t possible with otoplasty
- Do not smoke
- Are undergoing otoplasty for their own reasons and not to fulfill the desires of any other person
How young can my child be to undergo otoplasty?
It is only necessary to wait until the ears have reached full physical development to undergo otoplasty. Usually, this occurs by age 5. However, it could be as young as age 3. Age is only one factor that affects the surgical experience. Young children also need to meet emotional criteria to ensure they are good candidates for otoplasty.
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What can ear surgery correct?
Otoplasty is commonly referred to as “ear pinning” because this procedure can pull in ears that protrude from the head. Additional concerns that can be addressed with ear surgery include overly large ears compared to head size and dissatisfying results from a previous otoplasty.
What are the benefits of getting ear pinning surgery?
Children aren’t always the kindest. When a child has ears that protrude more than normal, they’re open to teasing and taunting at school. Plus, the ears can make the child self-conscious. This is a critical time for developing self-confidence and teasing from peers can hammer that.
This is a simple surgery with Dr. Olack. The procedure is straightforward, and the recovery is not difficult. You may not give your ears a second thought, but a child with protruding or misshapen ears will attract unwanted attention. This surgery allows the child to avoid that.
Or, if you’re an adult but your ears were never addressed, the same benefits are true. Women can stop hiding their ears behind their hair. Men can stop stuffing them under a baseball cap.
Of course, if you’re coming to Dr. Olack to repair a torn earlobe or an earlobe that has become permanently stretched due to large gauges, the benefits are obvious.
Risks Associated with Ear Pinning
Surgical risks of ear pinning match those associated with any surgery. These include infection, bleeding, and adverse reaction to anesthesia or the medical tape used to dress the ears. Otoplasty risks also include:
- Poor wound healing
- Diminished skin sensation (this is usually temporary)
- Suture displacement in which internal stitches work their way out
Most of the risks of ear pinning surgery can be significantly reduced by obtaining care from a board-certified plastic surgeon, like Dr. Olack, and by carefully following post-operative instructions.
Is ear surgery painful?
You may have heard that ear pinning surgery makes for quite a painful recovery. This isn’t the case. It is true that it is tolerated more easily by children, but even adults usually only need any narcotic type of pain medication for the first night after surgery. From there, most patients can transition to anti-inflammatory pain medication.
It is helpful to make sure you remain on your back when sleeping. It can be a painful shock if you roll onto your side and onto your repaired ear. You can make sure this doesn’t happen by strategically placing pillows on your sides.
As with any pain, different patients have different tolerances.
What should I do to prepare for otoplasty?
For children, Dr. Olack usually opts to use general anesthesia. This alleviates problems with nervousness. We will give you instructions on eating and so forth for the night before your child’s surgery.
As for adults, you’ll need to stop taking anti-inflammatory medications, any blood-thinning medications, and most supplements a week before your procedure. You’ll only be under local anesthesia with sedation, so you won’t need to fast.
Ear Surgery Procedure
Otoplasty may be performed on one or both ears as needed to improve the overall symmetry framing the face. Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis in an accredited surgery center.
General anesthesia is administered to provide pain relief and also to ensure the patient is completely comfortable and still while the ears are reshaped. Throughout the procedure, vital signs are closely monitored by a board-certified anesthesiologist.
Incisions are made and small instruments are used to reduce cartilage in a precise manner to either pull the ears in closer to the head or reduce the overall size of the ears. The reshaped cartilage is secured internally by nonremovable sutures that act as a secondary support structure. Sutures are very small and unnoticeable after surgery. External stitches close incisions and the head is wrapped with a surgical dressing.
How long does otoplasty take?
These procedures with Dr. Olack usually take about one hour. They can be longer if the ears need reshaping.
Where are the incisions made?
Otoplasty incisions are typically made on the backside of the ears and may also be made in the inner crease of the ear. In some cases, incisions may be made in the front of the ear. All incision locations are discreet. Post-surgical scarring should be nearly invisible.
Recovery After Ear Surgery
The primary focus during the first week after otoplasty is to keep the ears in position. This is achieved with a dressing that must be worn at all times. The dressing may need to be changed over the course of 7 to 10 days. After the dressing is removed, it may still be necessary to sleep with pads and a headband around the ears to prevent accidental bending.
Pain medication may be prescribed to control comfort, but most patients find that their ears don’t hurt much at all after surgery. The soreness that is encountered may be treatable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to minimize the risk of infection. Patients may shower the day after ear surgery, taking care to keep the head dry. It will be necessary to keep the head dry for 7 to 10 days. Baths may not be a good method of bathing because sitting in warm water could increase swelling.
The first 7 to 10 days after ear surgery involve a lot of rest. This may be somewhat difficult for children so parents are encouraged to prepare stimulating but mild activities that do not involve a lot of physical movement. It is necessary to keep the heart rate lower for the first three weeks after surgery. Socializing may resume gradually after 10 days but the ears may continue to appear swollen for several weeks. Children who play contact sports should be prepared for a 3 to 6-month break to ensure complete healing before returning to full activity.
How long until I can exercise after otoplasty?
There are different levels of exercise, or in the case of children, play. Strenuous exercise or activities need to wait for three weeks. You want to keep the blood pressure from elevating across your head. A good barometer is whether or not you’re sweating. You can begin light walking the day after your procedure. Exercises such as aerobic activity and weightlifting should wait three weeks.
Dr. Olack will discuss when these types of activities can resume. He can discuss these when he removes your stitches and dressing and can get a good idea of your healing.
How soon can I return to work?
Adults may not need that much recovery time. This varies with the patient.
How soon can my child return to school after an otoplasty?
Children can usually return to school after about one week, but recess will need to be limited activity.
How long before I can wear glasses after having ear surgery?
You can put your eyeglasses back on after Dr. Olack removes your dressing. This will occur at from 7 to 10 days, depending on the individual.
Beyond eyeglasses, you need to avoid bending your ear or ears. For that reason, we may supply you with pads and a headband for sleeping after we remove the dressing. To minimize the chances of catching or bending your ear, you shouldn’t wear t-shirts or anything that you need to pull over your head.