Otoplasty (ear surgery) is a plastic surgery procedure in which prominent ears are set back closer to the head and/or large ears are reduced in size. Individuals looking to improve the appearance of large or protruding ears who are physically healthy and realistic in their expectations may be good candidates for otoplasty. Though the procedure is most often performed on children between the ages of four and fourteen, otoplasty may also be performed on adults. However, it’s often recommended that surgery be performed at an early age, four years of age or older, to spare children the teasing that can occur as a result of large or protruding ears.
Otoplasty is often performed as an outpatient procedure and may take place in an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. General anesthesia is commonly used for children while local anesthesia combined with sedation is often used for older children and adults. The surgery is typically completed within two hours. Incisions are typically located on the back of the ear, which will result in a small, well-concealed scar.
There are several different techniques for otoplasty. With one technique, the incision is made on the back of the ear and the exposed cartilage is then sculpted to the desired shape and bent back toward the head. Non-removable stitches are used to help maintain the new shape. A larger piece of cartilage may be removed in some cases to create a more natural-looking fold. With another technique, a similar incision is made and, though no cartilage is removed, skin is removed and then stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself and reshape the ear.
Once the surgery is complete, a bulky bandage will be used to wrap the patients head. This bandage is typically removed within a few days and then replaced by a lighter, headband-like dressing. Most patients are up and moving around within a few hours after the procedure, though some temporary throbbing aching, swelling, redness and numbness can occur. Pain medication can help to relieve any discomfort that patients experience. Stitches are typically removed or dissolve on their own in about a week, and most patients are able to return to work or school within five to seven days. Strenuous activities, contact sports, and any activities which may bend the ear will need to be avoided for one to two months. As with all types of surgery, there are potential complications and these may include the following: adverse anesthesia reactions, blood clot, excessive scarring, infection, mismatched or artificial-looking ears, and recurrence of the protrusion. The results of otoplasty are usually life-long.