Otoplasty (Ear Surgery)
Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of a person’s ears. Although otoplasty does not affect hearing, it can provide great psychological benefits to anyone who has been teased about the size or shape of their ears, has had a serious ear injury, or simply wants to improve their appearance.
Otoplasty typically serves two functions: setting prominent ears back closer to the head, and reducing the size of large ears. Ear surgery may also be helpful for the following conditions:
- Large or protruding ears
- Lop ear (top of the ear folds downward or inward)
- Cupped ear (a small ear)
- Shell ear (no outer curve in the cartilage)
- Large, stretched or torn earlobes
- Earlobes with large creases and wrinkles
Dr. Frank can also construct new ears for patients who are missing them from injury or other causes.
Candidates for Otoplasty
Candidates for otoplasty maybe anyone who feels self-conscious about their ears and wants to improve their appearance. Although the operation is most often performed on children aged four to fourteen, this procedure can be very beneficial to people of all ages. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and early surgery can prevent a child from being teased in school.
It is also important that you are in good general health and have realistic expectations about the outcome of the procedure. Discuss your goals of otoplasty with your surgeon so that you can achieve the results you desire.
The Otoplasty Procedure
Otoplasty, also known as ear pinning, generally lasts two to three hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used typically depends on the age of the patient. General anesthesia is recommended for very young patients, while local anesthesia and a sedative may be used for older children and adults.
The otoplasty procedure begins with a small incision made behind the ear, in the natural crease where the ear meets the head. The cartilage is then sculpted and bent into its new position to achieve the desired appearance. In some types of otoplasty, the skin is removed but the cartilage is left in one piece and merely bent back on itself for a smaller-looking ear.
After sculpting the cartilage to the preferred shape, sutures are used to hold the ear in the new position until healing is complete. A bandage is then wrapped around the head to ensure the new positioning. To achieve better balance, both ears may be operated on even if only one has a problem.
Patients of all ages usually feel back to normal after a few hours, although the ears may ache or throb for a few days. Prescription medication will be made available to help alleviate any discomfort.
A few days after the otoplasty procedure, the bandages around your head will be replaced with a surgical dressing that should be worn for about one week. The stitches will be removed within one week. Otoplasty patients should avoid sleeping on their side for the first two weeks after surgery.
After about one week following otoplasty, children may return to school and adults are often able to return to work and resume normal daily activities. After the ears have healed completely, there will usually be a faint scar on the back of the ears. However, because of the strategic placement of the incisions in ear surgery, the scars should be virtually unnoticeable and will typically fade with time.
What are the common causes of earlobe damage or deformity?
Earlobe damage can occur due to the gauge of some modern earrings that permanently stretch the earlobe. If the person chooses to remove the large-gauge earring, he or she is left with loose, floppy skin that will need surgery to correct. Hoop earrings present another possibility of damage, as they can become caught on items when the person is walking, resulting in the earring being torn out through the earlobe. Again, surgery will be necessary to repair the tear. Trauma during sports can also damage the outer ear and require surgery.
Common deformities of the ear that Dr. Frank can correct are generally congenital. These are often thought to be a result of a lack of blood supply to a developing fetus. These deformities include an underdeveloped outer ear, a condition known as microtia. Constricted ears, otherwise known as lop ears, feature flattened or rolled out ear edges. In shell ear, there is no outer curve in the cartilage. Earlobes can also feature large creases and wrinkles.
Is ear surgery performed with anesthesia?
Most procedures to address protruding ears or to repair damaged earlobes are performed by Dr. Frank with the patient under local anesthesia. However, when children are involved it can be better to place them under general anesthesia to head off their anxiety about surgery.
For a more involved reconstruction of the ears, as to address deformity, for instance, Dr. Frank usually will opt for general anesthesia.
Will I have scars after my otoplasty?
Scarring depends on what was involved in the surgery. When bringing the ears closer to the head, Dr. Frank hides the incisions behind the ears, so they are effectively invisible. Torn earlobes will involve some degree of scarring to bring the edges back together, but Dr. Frank’s surgical skills keep these to a very fine scar that will fade with time. With more involved reconstruction, the goal is to hide the incisions as much as possible, but some degree of scarring is inevitable.
Risks and Complications of Otoplasty
As with all surgery, there are risks associated with otoplasty. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. This generally dissolves naturally or can be treated with a needle. Another potential risk is an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. This can usually be treated with antibiotics, but may occasionally require surgery. Also, you should not expect your new ears to match exactly; even normal, natural ears are not identical.
Complications are rare and usually minor, and can typically be minimized by choosing a qualified and experienced surgeon and by carefully following Dr. Frank’s aftercare instructions.
Dr. Frank performs ear surgery for patients located in Calgary, Cochrane, Airdrie, Chestermere, and Okotoks, AB, CA. Call our office to schedule a consultation for an otoplasty!
Is otoplasty covered by insurance?
In Canada, otoplasty performed on children under the age of 18 is usually covered. Ear surgery is also covered in cases of correcting the congenital deformity. Surgical repair of torn or otherwise damaged earlobes is generally covered, as it is considered an injury. Adult ear pinning, however, is not covered.
Can my earlobes be pierced after earlobe surgery?
If the earlobes have been repaired, they can usually be re-pierced after six months.