During an otoplasty the ears are surgically repositioned or reshaped to give a more normal and symmetric appearance.
Most otoplasties are undertaken to make prominent ears lie more closely against the head or to reduce the size of unusually large ears. Most patients are children aged between 4 and 14. Ear surgery on adults is also possible. What can and should be done in your or your child’s case will depend on a consultation with Dr. Coville. However, the following introductory paragraphs will, we hope, be helpful.
Is It Right for Me?
Provided you choose a qualified, experienced surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery. With this procedure, a small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot under the skin of the ear. This may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a needle. Occasionally patients develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause some scarring. Antibiotics can usually clear up any such infection. Rarely further surgery may be required to drain the infected area.
The operation for prominent ear correction takes approximately 90 to 120 minutes, and is usually carried under local anesthetic — with some mild sedation for adults. Children are usually given a general anesthetic.
What exactly happens?
Routine ear surgery usually takes under two hours. With one of the more common techniques, Dr. Fred first makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage and then sculpts the cartilage to bend it back toward the head. Permanent stitches may be used to manipulate the cartilage into an aesthetically pleasing form, and to help maintain the new shape. Sometimes he may need to remove some of the cartilage to create a more natural-looking fold. Most ear surgery leaves only a faint scar inconspicuously hidden in the natural crease where the ear meets the head and fades with time. Dr. Coville most often performs the surgery on both ears for better balance even when only one ear appears to protrude.
Getting back to normal
After the operation you will have a head bandaged applied. This will not feel tight, and should remain in place, day and night, for one week. It is worth buying a sports headband before the surgery, so you can wear it after your bandages come off. The headband should be a comfortable fit and not too tight.
Patients are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery. We will initially wrap your head in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. Although your ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, Dr. Fred will prescribe some medication to relieve any discomfort. Within a few days, Dr. Coville will replace the bulky bandages with a lighter head dressing similar to a headband. Be sure to follow his directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. The stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about a week. You should avoid any activity that could bend the ear for a month or so. Patients can usually go back to work about five days after surgery.
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. Dr. Fred frequently repairs torn earlobes caused by earrings right in his office. At Cornerstone Plastic Surgery we 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 is worse than the original problem. Ask Dr. Coville 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. Keep in mind, however, 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 Dr. Fred thoroughly before the operation, chances are, you’ll be quite pleased with the result.
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