Otoplasty, or ear surgery, is a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of a person's ears. Although otoplasty does not affect hearing, it can provide great psychological benefits. Otoplasty is most commonly performed to set unusually prominent ears back closer to the head, called ear pinning, or to reduce the size of abnormally large ears. Ear surgery may also be helpful to reconstruct abnormally small ears or lop ears or to repair ears which have been damaged by injury or cancer surgery.
The otoplasty procedure generally lasts two to three hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used typically depends on the age of the patient. General anesthesia is recommended for very young patients, while local anesthesia and a sedative may be used for older children and adults. The otoplasty procedure begins with a small incision made behind the ear. The cartilage is then sculpted and bent into its new position to achieve the desired appearance. To achieve a more symmetrical appearance, both ears may be operated on even if only one has a problem.
Patients usually feel back to normal a few hours after the procedure, although the ears may ache or throb for a few days. Prescription medication will be made available to help alleviate any discomfort. A few days after the otoplasty procedure, the bandages will be replaced with a surgical dressing that should be worn for about a week after which time the stitches will be removed. Otoplasty patients should avoid sleeping on their side for the first two weeks after surgery. After about one week following otoplasty, patients are usually able to return to their normal routines.
As with all surgery, there are risks associated with otoplasty. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot or an infection in the cartilage. Other possible complications may include changes in skin sensation.Patients are usually very pleased with the results of ear surgery, but should not expect their new ears to match exactly since even normal, natural ears are not entirely symmetrical. Complications are rare and usually minor, and can be minimized by choosing a qualified and experienced surgeon and by carefully following the surgeon's aftercare instructions.