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Otoplasty, or ear pinning, is used to improve the appearance of the ears, placing them in better alignment with the face. It is one of the few cosmetic surgeries performed on children, as well as adults. It repositions prominent ears closer to the head so that they don’t protrude. The procedure also serves to make ears symmetrical and to correct any deformities that may exist.
Otoplasty reduces the size of large ears or sets prominent ears back closer to the head. Ear surgery is commonly done on children between ages 4 and 14 years old.
When ear surgery is performed by a qualified, experienced surgeon, 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.
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. Sholar will evaluate your child’s condition, or yours if you are considering surgery for yourself, and recommend the most effective technique. He or she will also give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery.
The type of incisions used for ear surgery will depend on the problem, and even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance. For one of the common techniques, a surgeon makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose cartilage, then sculpts the cartilage, bending it back toward the head; occasionally removing a larger piece of cartilage to provide a more natural-looking fold. Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear, skin removal, and stitches used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage.
This is an outpatient procedure, which can be performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation. The length of time for otoplasty is 2-3 hours. Recovery normally takes 1-2 weeks and results can be noticed after a few months.
Temporary throbbing, aching, swelling, redness and numbness are common temporary experiences. You will be advised not to sleep on your side to reduce pressure on the ear, and to wear a “skier’s type” headband to keep ears protected as you heal. Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work about five days after surgery. Children can go back to school after seven days or so, if they’re careful about playground activity. You may want to ask your child’s teacher to keep an eye on the child for a few weeks.
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind, 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 the surgeon before the operation, chances are, you’ll be quite pleased with the result.