Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually done
to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of
large ears. Ears that appear to stick out or are overly large can be
helped by ear surgery.
For the most part, the operation is done on
children between the ages of four and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by
age four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the
child will have to endure. Ear surgery on adults is also possible, and
there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on
an older patient.
If your child is young, I recommend general
anesthesia, so the child will sleep through the operation. For older
children or adults, I prefer to use local anesthesia, combined with a
sedative, so you or your child will be awake but relaxed.
Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours,
although complicated procedures may take longer. The technique will
depend on the problem.
An incision is made in the back of the
ear to expose the ear cartilage. then sculpt the cartilage and bend it
back toward the head. 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 the ear that will fade with time. Even when
only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both
ears for a better balance.
The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days,
but this can be relieved by medication.
Next day, the bulky bandages will be
replaced by a lighter head dressing similar to a headband.
Stitches are usually removed, in about a week.
Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be
avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work about five
days after surgery. Children can go back to school after seven days or
so, if they're careful about playground activity. You may want to ask
your child's teacher to keep an eye on the child for a few weeks.
Besides protruding ears, there are a variety of other
ear problems that can be helped with surgery. These include: "lop ear,"
when the tip seems to fold down and forward; "cupped ear," which is
usually a very small ear; and "shell ear," when the curve in the outer
rim, as well as the natural folds and creases, are missing. Surgery can
also improve large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with large creases
All surgery carries some uncertainty and
risk ,complications are infrequent and usually minor.
Nevertheless, as with any operation, there
are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated
with this procedure.
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood
clot on the ear. It may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a
Occasionally, patients develop an infection in the
cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are
usually treated with antibiotics, rarely,
surgery may be required to drain the infected area.