Ear Surgery – Dr. Burton Sundin & Dr. Reps Sundin, Virginia
Some people are born with ears that stick out from the side of the head and are more prominent than others’. For these people, surgeons have developed otoplasty, or commonly referred to as ear surgery, which surgically sets the ears back against the sides of the head, so the protrusion is minimized and the ears are brought to a normative position on the sides of the head.
Typically, the procedure is performed on children ages 4 to 14, as it is important to perform the surgery as early as possible, to prevent teasing from other children, which can be emotionally stressful to the child. Ear surgery can be performed – with no additional risks involved – on adult patients as well.
This article will provide you with important information on otoplasty, but it does not replace the importance of meeting one-on-one with a specialist to discover the possibilities available to each individual patient.
Ear surgery is a common surgery that, when performed by a qualified, board certified plastic surgeon, will not usually result in complications. However, with any elective surgery, there are always some risks involved and they must be considered before you make any decision on your behalf or that of your child.
Some patients develop a small blood clot in the ear after surgery, but this condition is usually alleviated by drawing out the blood with a needle.
Furthermore, an infection in the cartilage of the ear can develop, which can result in scar tissue. In most cases, antibiotics are administered in this situation and it is resolved.
It is important to note that, most children who suffer from large or protruding ears will eventually desire the surgery themselves. This is the best of all situations, as it is always better to have the full cooperation of the child during the process and promotes better results physically and emotionally.
As with any cosmetic enhancement surgery, you should first consider your motivations for surgery to be sure that you’re choosing surgery for yourself and not to fulfill someone else’s’ desires or expectations of you or your child. It is a very personal matter and any decision for surgery should come after careful consideration of all the facts and emotions, especially when children are involved.
Your surgeon will go over the options you may have regarding the geographic location of your surgery. Typically, otoplasty procedures are performed in an accredited surgical center, outpatient ambulatory surgical center or a hospital.
Parents of younger children are usually encouraged to opt for general anesthesia, as younger children tend to suffer more anxiety about the surgery than older children or adults. Those who are older can opt for local anesthesia in conjunction with a sedative. Your doctor will discuss all of the options with you to determine which is best for you or your child.
Typical ear surgery will last anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on the degree of correction required and any unforeseeable complications that may arise during surgery.
A very small incision is made in the back of the ear, exposing the cartilage of the ear that will be shaped to fit the new position desired closer to the sides of the head. Permanent stitches may be used to maintain the longevity of the new shape of the ear.
Ear surgery can be performed with very little visible scarring, as the incisions are made on the back of the ear in the natural fold, which is usually covered by hair. To promote symmetry, surgery is usually performed on both ears, even if the issue is only apparent in one ear, rather than both.
Recovery time immediately following surgery is usually very short, allowing the patient to get up and walk around within a few hours of ear surgery. Younger children who undergo general anesthesia will usually need more time to recover, and oftentimes stay overnight in the hospital for observation, due to the effects of anesthesia.
Light medication to relieve the swelling and pain can be used in the days following the surgery. In addition, the ears will be wrapped in gauze and bandages for the first few days, which will need to be changed. A smaller, more comfortable bandage will replace the initial bandage after a few days. Following your surgeons’ instructions precisely will ensure the best results possible.
It is of paramount importance that any activity that could compromise the newly formed ears be avoided for 5 days, in adults, and up to a week for children. That means adults can return to work within 5 days and children can return to school within 7 days, with special instructions to their teachers that certain activities on the playground should be avoided.
There are many other cosmetic conditions that can be treated with ear surgery including correcting cosmetic issues with the earlobes, or cupped or shelled ears. Depending on your desires, your surgeon will consult with you on your options for corrective ear surgery. In more extreme cases, ears can be rebuilt after severe injury or built from cartilage and skin grafts from other parts of the body for those born without ears.
It must be noted, however, that sometimes ear surgery can create a scar that is more pronounced than the original issue. This is why an honest and straightforward discussion with your surgeon of your desires and expectations of ear surgery is very important.
More often than not, patients who undergo otoplasty surgery are very satisfied with the results of their procedure. One must look at the results of ear surgery as enhancing the natural beauty innate in every patient; the point is not perfection, but the most natural, normative look possible. This is yet another reason why direct and honest communication with your surgeon is extremely important.