Otoplasty, also called cosmetic ear surgery, is a procedure used to change the size, position, and shape of prominent ears. Many clients choose to have this surgery because they are bothered by how far the ears stick out from the head. Otoplasty is also used to reduce the size and shape of the ears. Otoplasty is used to provide symmetry to the ears, and is often done after the age of 5 years.
Candidates for Otoplasty
Around 5% of the general population is affected by prominent ears. The goal of otoplasty is to recreate a normal appearance of the ears, and to achieve symmetry between the two sides. You may wish to have otoplasty if:
You have a congenital defect of the ears.
Your ears protrude outward from the body.
You have unusually large ears.
Your earlobe is stretched or deformed.
The Initial Consultation
The first step before surgery is the initial consultation with the plastic surgeon. The doctor will:
Review your medical history – This involves asking questions about past and present medical conditions, discussing medications, and inquiring about allergies.
Performing a physical examination – This is done to examine the size, symmetry, and shape of the ears.
Discuss expectations – The surgeon will go over the procedure benefits and risks, and have you discuss your expectations in terms of appearance.
Before the otoplasty procedure, you will need to:
Stop smoking – Smoking affects circulation and wound healing. The plastic surgeon advises you to stop smoking a full 6 weeks before the procedure.
Avoid certain medicines – All agents that thin the blood are to be held for several days before the procedure. These include ibuprofen, naproxen, over the counter herbal supplements/vitamins, Coumadin, and Plavix.
Arrange for help during recovery – You will need someone to drive you home after the surgery, and someone should stay with you for the first 24 hours.
During the Procedure
Otoplasty surgery is different for every patient, and most procedures are performed using general anesthesia. The plastic surgeon uses various techniques to make necessary corrections. The incisions may be within the inner ear creases or on the backs of the ears.
Otoplasty can be either cartilage-sparing or cartilage-splitting. With cartilage-sparing techniques, the surgeon avoids full-thickness incisions and attempts to create more effective angles in the cartilage using permanent sutures. With cartilage-splitting techniques, the surgeon makes incisions through the cartilage and repositions large blocks of cartilage. Every attempt possible is made to eliminate visible scarring. After removing cartilage and skin tissue, the incisions are closed using sutures.
After the otoplasty procedure, your ears are covered with bandages for support and protection. You will experience some discomfort, swelling, and bruising. Pain medication and antibiotics are usually given. To avoid pressure on the ears, you should sleep on your back, and should try to avoid placing excessive force on the incisions.
You will return to the plastic surgeon’s office in 3-7 days for removal of bandages and sutures. You can shower, but must avoid letting the water hit the ears. In addition, soaking in a tub or sauna is not permitted until wounds have healed. You are encouraged to move about your home, but must avoid strenuous activities for 2-4 weeks. You will have to wear a headband around the ears for about 3-4 weeks to help with healing.
Most clients are very happy with their otoplasty results. In a recent study involving 67 children, researchers found that all showed benefit from the operation regarding health-related quality of life. The study involved the use of the Glasgow Children’s Benefit Inventory, which inquired on changes in health, emotions, learning, and vitality.
Pawar S, Koch CA, & Murakami C (2015). Treatment of Prominent Ears and Otoplasty: A Contemporary Review. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 17(6).
Songu M & Kutlu A (2014). Health-related quality of life outcome of children with prominent ears after otoplasty. Eur Arch of Oto-Rhino-Laryng, 271(6), 1829-1832.