EAR CONTOURING (OTOPLASTY)
Ear Surgery, or Otoplasty, is usually done to set prominent ears (ears that appear to stick out ) back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears. For the most part, the operation is done on children between the ages of four and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery, 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.
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.
PLANNING FOR SURGERY
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, Dr. Skarparis will evaluate your child’s condition or yours if you are considering surgery for yourself, and recommend the most effective technique. Ear surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia with sedation. If your child is young, Dr. Skarparis may recommend general anesthesia.
Ear Surgery usually takes about one-two hours. The technique will depend on the problem. With one of the more common techniques, Dr. Skarparis makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. He 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, Dr. Skarparis will remove a larger piece of cartilage to provide a more natural-looking fold when the surgery is complete. In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time.
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL
Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery.
The patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication.
Within a few days, the bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head dressing similar to a headband. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work 2-3 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. Surgery can also improve large or stretched earlobes. Dr. Skarparis can even build new ears for those who were born without them or who lost them through injury.
MORE NATURAL-LOOKING EARS
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not always perfection. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations with the plastic surgeon before the operation, chances are, you’ll be very pleased with the result.