What is Otoplasty?
Otoplasty, more commonly known as ear surgery, is done when a person wishes to change or improve the position, structure or appearance of the ear. This surgery is most popular among those who may have birth deformities or suffered traumatizing injuries to the outer ear. For the most part, Otoplasty typically falls under the reconstructive rather than cosmetic category. Although, it is not uncommon for individuals to be generally unhappy with the size or shape of their ears and desire this surgery as well.
Before the Procedure
Ear surgery requires weeks of planning in advance. There is a great deal of information that should be taken into consideration. Your doctor will sit down and discuss the realistic expectations of the outcome, as some cases will be more drastic than others. Otoplasty is often performed on children, so it is important they understand the significant changes the procedure may cause. You will also disclose any medical conditions you may have, so that the surgeon may plan the best steps for a successful operation.
There are three major categories that fall under the term Otoplasty, these include ear pinning, ear augmentation and ear reduction. Which procedure you receive will be decided on an individual basis. The surgery may be limited to one ear or include both.
Ear pinning is a cosmetic procedure done to move protruding ears closer to each side of the skull. Skin is removed from the back side of the ear and the cartilage is maneuvered using sparing and scoring to create an ideal shape and position that will contour with the patient’s head. Adult patients are usually given a local anesthetic, while children will be under general anesthesia. This is a fairly quick procedure, usually taking between one and two hours to complete.
Ear augmentation is performed on those patients with missing, deformed or underdeveloped parts of the outer ear and ear lobe. Microtia is the most common condition treated with ear augmentation to help correct underdeveloped pinna. Augmentation will enlarge and expand the structure. Many times, this procedure will require reconstruction of the ear by using cartilage from other parts of the body.
Ear reduction is a cosmetic procedure that helps to make larger ears smaller and more symmetrical by removing some of the structures of the outer ear. This is can be used to correct conditions like Macrotia, meaning the outer part of the ear is oversized, but maintains proper shape and structure.
Safety and Possible Risks or Side Effects
Like with any medical procedure, there are possible risks and side effects involved with Otoplasty. Patients need to take into consideration that the recovery period of this particular surgery can take up to six weeks. This could interfere with work or school and should be planned accordingly.
Side effects may consist of minor discomfort, minimal itching and numbness of the area surrounding the ear. These little nuisances are very common and not a reason for concern. It is very important for parents to caution their children about rubbing or scratching of the incision area to avoid possible infection or ruptured sutures. I
f pain increases or lasts for an extended period of time you should contact your medical provider immediately. For those patients who experience numbness, precautions should be taken in extreme cold or hot weather conditions to avoid damage to delicate tissue.
Although they rarely occur, you should be aware of the following risks that could happen following Otoplasty:
- Scarring can occur, but luckily, any scars are usually hidden behind the ears and easily go unnoticed.
- Overcorrecting of the ears can be an issue if major changes are made during surgery resulting in unnatural contouring of the face. This can give the appearance of the ears being pinned back.
- Asymmetrical placement of the ears may rarely occur due to structural changes that happen during the healing process. There is also the possibility that Otoplasty may not totally correct preexisting asymmetry, resulting in an improved, but still unbalanced appearance.
After the Procedure
The results of ear surgery will depend greatly on what occurs during the healing period. Giving your body the appropriate time to rest and recover is imperative. Normal activities should not be resumed until at least three weeks post-op. Patients should be prepared to wear a compression headdress for the first week.
Your surgeon will decide which pain medications will work best for your individual needs. If proper wound care is administered, the incision area should heal nicely with minimal scarring.