Otoplasty is a common procedure designed to “pin back” and reshape protruding or large ears. The surgery can be performed on anyone above the age of five, the time at which ear growth is almost complete. For children with severely protruding ears the surgery is recommended at an early age to prevent teasing and psychological trauma caused by other children.
A complete medical history and a careful examination with blood tests will be done in the initial preoperative visit to determine the general health of the patient. The surgeon will also examine the shape and structure of the ears and determine the extent of surgery required. Photographs may also be taken before and after surgery to evaluate the extent of improvement. Moreover, the surgeon will discuss the procedure, realistic expected results, type of anesthesia to be used, and possible risks of surgery. Preoperative instructions generally include taking certain vitamins and elimination of certain drugs to minimize the possibility of excess bleeding. Antibiotics or shampooing with an antiseptic shampoo may be prescribed for the days prior to surgery in order to prevent infection.
Otoplasty can be done in an outpatient surgical facility or a hospital under general or local anesthesia, depending on the patient or physician’s preference. Two hours or more maybe needed depending on the extent of surgery. Incisions are generally made in the back of the ears to expose the ear cartilage, followed by the removal or repositioning of the cartilage. Once the desired shape and contour is achieved, sutures are used to maintain this correction. Small sutures close the incisions and the ears are bandaged for protection.
Swelling and bruising are normal after the operation but will disappear within a week. The moderate pain can be controlled with oral medication. Bandages are removed within a few days and normal activity can be resumed within a few weeks, while wearing a lighter headband or dressing to protect the ears from trauma. The final result from the surgery will not be fully apparent until all the swelling fades.
Each year thousands of otoplasties are performed successfully, although there is always an inherent risk with any surgical procedure, such as infection. Following directions given by the surgeon can minimize the risk for complications. A second surgery may be necessary for ears that begin to protrude again.