Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery or ear pinning, is a plastic surgery procedure which improves large or protruding ears. During surgery, prominent ears may be set back closer to the head and large ears can be reduced in size. Many children with large or prominent ears suffer significant teasing, called names like Dumbo and Elephant Ears, and this can have a serious impact on a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. For this reason, many experts recommend that surgery be performed early on, as young as age five, to spare children the teasing that might otherwise result.
Candidates for otoplasty include adults and children who are in good physical health and have realistic expectations for improvement. Surgery can be performed on younger patients once the ears are near adult size, which typically occurs around the age of five. In fact, otoplasty is often performed on children between the ages of four and fourteen, unlike a rhinoplasty which may be better suited for the teenage years. The added benefit of performing otoplasty at a young age is that the ear cartilage is still extremely pliable, allowing for greater ease in shaping. Of course, otoplasty can and is often performed on adults as well. This is an excellent procedure for anyone who is looking to set prominent ears back closer to the head or reduce the size of large ears.
Otoplasty is most often performed on an outpatient basis with surgical times averaging two to three hours. Younger children often receive general anesthesia, while adults and older children may have a combination of local anesthesia and sedation. While techniques may vary, Dr. Smith commonly uses a technique which involves minimal incisions behind the ear. He then molds and reshapes the cartilage to create a more aesthetically pleasing and balanced appearance. Many individuals have just one ear that appears large or protruding. In most cases, however, both ears are operated on to create the best symmetry.
Patients may experience some discomfort, achiness or throbbing in the ears during the first few days of recovery and this can be managed with medication. The head is wrapped in a large, bulky bandage after surgery to help support the ears and promote the best healing and molding. Within a few days, the bandage is replaced by a lighter, headband-like dressing. This dressing is worn around the clock for a period of time and then just at night for some time after that. Patients may also experience some swelling, redness and numbness around the ears.
Many patients find that they feel well enough to return to work and school within five to seven days. Strenuous activities will need to be postponed for one to two months and this is particularly important for contact sports and any activities in which the ear might be bent. The results of otoplasty are usually permanent.