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Ear Surgery (Otoplasty) – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the definition of an Otoplasty?

The term otoplasty literally means, “re-shaping or re-forming the ears”. Although, it is most commonly used to describe the pinning back of prominent ears closer to the head, it may also refer to the surgical correction of a number of different ear deformities.

What is the purpose of an otoplasty?

An otoplasty can be done for purely cosmetic reasons, or it can be done as a reconstructive procedure to restore normal ear form.  Either, aesthetic or for reconstruction purposes, otoplasty is performed to improve the shape, position, or proportion of your ear.  As a cosmetic procedure, an otoplasty can treat microtia (overly large ears) or prominent ears on one or both sides. As a reconstructive procedure, it can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth, or an ear deformed by injury.

Who is a good candidate for otoplasty?

Prominent ears are a cosmetic deformity that can have a severe emotional and behavioral effect on children and adults.   Children with large ears can be taunted with names such as “Dumbo”, although; prominent ears typically don’t affect a child’s self-image until they are five or six years old.  Healthy children or adults who are self-conscious about the prominence of their ears are good candidates for otoplasty.

Are prominent ears inherited?

Protruding ears are an inherited trait and 59% of affected individuals have a family history.

What are the safety issues when considering cosmetic ear surgery?

Though thousands of children and adults undergo otoplasty each year and experience no major complications, every surgical procedure carries a degree of risk.  During your consultation, all complications will be thoroughly discussed, and your surgeon will encourage you to voice any questions or concerns at that time.  By following his instructions, side effects will be greatly minimized.  Although rare, potential complications include bleeding, infection, shifting, asymmetry, and unwanted scar tissue.

Should parents encourage their children to have otoplasty?

Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the otoplasty procedure tend to be more cooperative during surgery and satisfied with their results.  If they are opposed to surgery, parents should not insist that their child undergo otoplasty.

How long do the effects of ear otoplasty last?

Otoplasty is permanent and patients are generally very pleased with their results, although in some cases, further adjustments may be necessary.

What are the benefits of ear reshaping surgery?

After your otoplasty surgery, your ears will take on a normal shape, allowing them to balance with the rest of your facial features.  They will also look more natural and have a better shape, thus increasing your self-image and confidence.

How long does the recovery take for otoplasty?

Everyone is different when it comes to post-operative recovery, and as with any surgery, some people recover more quickly than others.  Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery. However, you may prefer to stay overnight in the hospital with a child, until all the effects of general anaesthesia wear off.  Your head and ears will ache and feel sore for a few days afterwards, but you will be given pain medication to deal with this.  Immediately following your procedure, you will be required to keep your head bandage on, which will be replaced with a much lighter one after one week.  The lighter bandage will look like a headband and must be worn 24 hours a day, for two weeks.  The recovery time tends to be 5-7 days for an adult, and a week or more for children. You can return to work after that time, but you will be instructed to avoid any contact sports for at least one month.  Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for at least one month, and children can go back to school after seven days, if they are careful about playground activity.

When warning signs should I look for after my ear surgery?

You should call your surgeon immediately if:

  • You have shortness of breath, pains in the chest, or a rapid heartbeat
  • Your wound becomes infected or is slow to heal
  • You experience excessive bleeding
  • You have a sudden increase in pain

How long does ear surgery take to complete?

Ear surgery usually takes 1-2 hours, although complicated procedures may take longer.

What surgical technique will be used for my ear surgery?

The technique used for your ear surgery will depend on the problem you have with your ears.  One of the more common techniques is when your surgeon makes a small incision in the back of your ear to expose the ear cartilage.  They will then sculpt the cartilage, bend it back towards your head, then use non-removable stitches to help maintain the new shape.  Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of your ear where skin is removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself, to reshape the ear without removing cartilage.  In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of your ear that will fade with time.

How do I prepare for my ear surgery?

This will be discussed in detail during your consultation with your chosen surgeon. You will be instructed to stop any medication that increases bleeding, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements.

How do I know if ear surgery can help me?

The best way to determine if you are a good candidate for ear surgery is to make an arrange an appointment with your G.P. or  Consultant Plastic Surgeon This will enable a medical expert to examine you, discuss the options available, and answer all of your questions and concerns.

How old should my child be before having ear surgery?

Usually a child’s ear is fully grown and developed by the time they are five years old, so anytime after that is appropriate for ear surgery.

Will there be visible scars?

Your Surgeon will make every effort to hide any scarring from ear surgery; and in most cases incisions are small and made behind your ear.  Over time, any scar will fade and become nearly invisible.

I have small, oddly shaped ears, so will ear surgery help me?

Yes, ear surgery can correct a variety of ear disfigurements, and during your consultation your surgeon will examine your ears then discuss the different types of corrective surgeries available to you.

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