Ear Reshaping (Otoplasty)
Cosmetic otoplasty is a procedure to correct protruding or disfigured ears in children and adults. Most patients present to improve protruding ears although some patients benefit from other surgeries for other ear problems.
Many children are bullied about their protruding ears and studies have shown that this can affect a child’s body image and future well-being. Due to this, it is often desirable to correct protruding ears before beginning school. In children, otoplasty can usually performed from 4-7 years of age.
Numerous procedures are available for ear correction but the most popular operations involve placing specialized sutures to hold the ears in normal position or removal of excess cartilage to allow the ears to sit in a more natural position. Often times, both procedures are performed in a single surgery. Sometimes only a single ear is affected.
The question often arises how to inform young children of the need for surgery and what to do if they are resistant. Like orthodontics, parents usually opt for what they think will be best for the well-being of their children. In some cases the patient’s physician or a psychologist is consulted for communication and directon.
Who is a Candidate?
- Healthy children without ear infection from 4-7 years old
- Children that are able to accept the surgical experience and follow instructions
- Healthy teenagers and adults who desire to correct abnormal ear position
- Restore protruding ears to a more normal relationship
- Restore normal anatomy to protruding ears
- Improve self-confidence and body image
- Otoplasty is most frequently performed with IV anesthesia but can be done with local anesthesia in cooperative patients.
- The procedure is generally performed in the accredited office surgery center or hospital.
- The main incisions are hidden behind the ear and specialized sutures are used to hold the ears back. Cartilage is also sometimes removed or reduced to create a stable and long lasting result.
Recovery and Healing
- Recovery is generally 1-2 weeks and patients with long hair can easily cover the area.
- A head bandage or head band is usually worn for 1-2 weeks.
- Helmets and contact sports are avoided for 4-6 weeks.
- Underwater swimming is avoided for 2-3 weeks
- Ear molding devices are available to use in the first weeks after birth but are largely ineffective after that.
- Many short cut procedures are described, but time proven suture and cartilage techniques are safe and predictable.
The specific risks and the suitability of this procedure for a given individual can be determined only at the time of consultation. All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. Minor complications that do not affect the outcome occur occasionally. Major complications are rare.
Reviewed by Joseph Niamtu III, DMD, of Niamtu Cosmetic Facial Surgery.