What is otoplasty?
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
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What can Ear Surgery correct?
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.
Where Are The Incisions Made?
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 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.
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.