Man or woman, adult or child, sometimes there’s a need for surgery that will correct the contour or the position of the ears. An ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a plastic surgery procedure that Dr. Price performs to repair or reconstruct prominent, badly-formed, or damaged ears.
Ear surgery is also referred to as ear pinning. We know it as otoplasty. The term ear surgery can describe a variety of techniques that are intended for ear reshaping. Ear surgery is an elective, cosmetic procedure that improves the proportions between the face and its frame.
Who Needs Ear Surgery?
Otoplasty is for patients who are bothered with the shape or prominence of their ears. The ears can be reconstructed to make them more appealing to the patient. Ear surgery can also repair ears that were damaged by trauma.
Conditions Ear Surgery Can Treat
Some ear surgeries correct protrusion, some techniques decrease the size of the ear or of the earlobe. Ear surgery is often performed to pull protruding ears inward toward the head. Additional conditions that may be addressed with a specific technique include:
- Lopping, or bending of the top of the ear. The ears may lop inward or outward. Either can be corrected with otoplasty.
- Cartilage damage caused by injury, such as “cauliflower ear.”
- Enlarged or split earlobes
- Small ear size
- Pointy Ears
- Underdeveloped ear structure
What Age Is Appropriate For Otoplasty?
A person may undergo otoplasty at nearly any age. This surgery is often recommended for children because the ears are nearly fully-developed by age 5. At this time, however, cartilage is slightly softer and more moldable to the desired shape. Parents appreciate the availability of ear surgery for young children, and doctors often recommend that the ears be corrected before a child starts school. This can significantly decrease the chances of being teased. Correcting ear shape early in life also supports optimal self-esteem during highly developmental years.
While otoplasty is ideal for younger children, teens and adults can also obtain outstanding results from this procedure. Dr. Price has treated patients of all ages. His training and experience achieve optimal outcomes regardless of age.
Why Is Cosmetic Otoplasty Done?
Ear surgery is often done because the ears protrude or “stick out” further from the head than desired. Typically present at birth, the surgery is performed on children, as well as adults were correcting the ear shape may help the patient to be more comfortable with their appearance. Sometimes, surgery is also performed because of an abnormal shape, even though the ear does not really “stick out”.
What Causes The Protrusion Of The Ear?
Ears that stand out 2 centimeters or more from the side of the head are described as “protruding.” The prominence of the ears has to do with the antihelical fold and the central part of the ear. The center of the external ear is the concha. This is the bowl-like depression at the opening of the ear canal. The rim of cartilage just outside of the concha is called the antihelix. Just past the antihelix is a fold that ends in a slight curve at the outer edge of the ear. Two things can affect protrusion. One is that the concha is very deep. This causes the back of the ear to push away from the head. The other reason that protrusion may occur is that the antihelical fold does not fully develop.
Protruding ears are not a functional problem but they can significantly degrade a person’s sense of confidence. For this reason, ear pinning otoplasty is a highly valued procedure.
How Is Otoplasty Performed?
Otoplasty is performed under general anesthesia in an outpatient surgery center. General anesthesia places the patient into a deep, controlled sleep state. Throughout the procedure, the anesthesiologist monitors important vital signs.
Ear surgery is typically performed through an incision made along the crease behind the ear. Through this incision, the surgeon accesses relevant cartilage to achieve the desired improvements. For protruding ears, improvement is achieved with specific suturing and scoring techniques that bring the ears closer to the side of the head. In some cases, one or more parts of the ear are built up with cartilage. The particular technique that is appropriate for you or your child will be fully explained during your consultation.
Ear Reconstruction With Dr. Price
Dr. Price performs this procedure on patients of all age ranges. For some children, the procedure is best performed at ages five to seven. In others, the procedure is more appropriate at an older age. Patients well into their sixties have requested the procedure, and many young adults choose to correct ear problems in their twenties. In cases where major reconstruction is needed, the cartilage in the ear is collected and reformed into the normal shape of the ear and is then grafted into place. The ear is reshaped gradually over a number of follow-up procedures until the desired shape is achieved.
Can Torn Earlobes Be Repaired?
Our plastic surgery practice in New Haven also repairs torn earlobes. An earlobe can be torn due to trauma, snagging a piercing, or constant wearing of heavy earrings. This procedure is quick and simple, taking only around 30 minutes to complete under local anesthesia. Patients can return to their regular activities immediately after the procedure.
The Recovery Process
Recovering from otoplasty is easier than most people imagine. Many patients feel much like their usual self within a few hours after the anesthesia wears off. The most prominent side effects during recovery are aching or throbbing in the ears. Comfort is managed with prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Immediately after ear surgery, a dressing is applied around the head. This is intended to hold the ears in place and prevent accidental bumping. This dressing also helps manage swelling and it hides any bruising that may result from surgery. Within a few days, much of the swelling that has occurred disappears. Within a week to 10 days, patients are ready to return to school, work, and most normal activities.
A post-operative follow-up takes place approximately one week after otoplasty. If non-dissolvable stitches were placed, they may be removed at this time. The dressing that is removed will be replaced with an athletic-type headband. Patients must wear this headband at all times for 3 weeks. Until 6 weeks post-op, patients need to wear the headband while sleeping.