What is otoplasty?
Otoplasty is the repair of abnormalities of the external portion of the ear. The results are very satisfying to the patient, and often the outlook of the patient will change dramatically after the operation.
This is particularly true with children. When ears protrude noticeably or are abnormal in some way, children are often teased by their peers. They are generally self conscious, and in some instances are shy and introverted solely due to the constant teasing of their friends. Adults will often wear their hair in ways that will hide the ears. Many a mother has recounted how the personality of their child blossomed after otoplasty, and some have noted improvement in school grades.
How is otoplasty performed?
Except in small children, the operation is performed using light sleep anesthesia. In children less than eight, the operation is always performed under general anesthesia so they do not fidget during the procedure. All incisions are placed behind the ear so there are no visible scars after the operation. If the ears are protruding, they may be rotated back. If some of the natural folds are missing, they are created. Missing or abnormal sections of the ear may be constructed from tissues taken from other parts of the ear or body. Ears that have been injured and are thickened can be thinned and sculpted. At the end of the operation, a pressure dressing is applied.
Where are the incisions made?
The incisions will generally be made in the most inconspicuous places - behind the ear or within the natural folds and curvatures of the ear structure. Discuss with your doctor the incisions he or she plans to make for the desired results. Some removal of cartilage may be necessary.
What should I expect postoperatively?
The pressure dressing is removed after 5 to 7 days. Children should be kept relatively quiet during that time. The dressing should not get wet. After removal of the dressing, a sweat band should be worn, at night only, to protect the ears until the end of the sixth postoperative week. Nonstrenuous activity may be resumed 2 days after surgery. The patient should refrain from bending over for 3 weeks, keeping the head higher than the heart during that time. The patient should not sleep on his or her side for 3 weeks. Routine exercise may begin at the end of the fourth postoperative week. Contact sports may be restarted at the end of the sixth postoperative week.
Is it quite painful? Is there much bruising?
It takes about a week and a half for most of the swelling to subside, although the ear will be sensitive to pressure for about 3 weeks. Bruising is usually minimal, although some people are more prone to it than others. There is usually some pain postoperatively, but not a great deal, and it should be able to be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers.
When will I be able to see the results?
You shouldn't even peek at the ear until the pressure dressing is removed. Doing so can increase the chance of infection or alter the results. Follow your doctor's instructions and do not attempt to remove the bandages unless he or she specifically instructs you to do so. After your dressings are removed, you will see an immediate difference in the shape of the ear, although there still may be some swelling.
What are the risks of otoplasty?
The risks of the operation are bleeding and infection. Both are exceedingly rare. With proper postoperative care, this is a very safe and satisfying operation that carries very little risk, offers beautiful results, and almost no discomfort from the operation itself.
You should know that your ears may feel numb for 2 to 3 months after the operation. Sensation returns slowly over that time. This is the reason that there is generally no pain in the postoperative period. This also makes the operation exceptionally well tolerated in children.
Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute
3023 Hamaker Court
Fairfax, VA 22031
Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute
8650 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20110
George Washington University Hospital
2150 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC, DC 20037