Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually performed in order to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears. The operation is often performed on children between the ages of four and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by the age of four. Many adults undergo this procedure and there are generally no additional risks associated.
We will assess your condition and general health, and plan the treatment that is best suited to you.
Otoplasty usually takes about two hours. The technique will depend on the problem. The aim is to create a more pronounced fold in the central portion of the ear by remodelling the cartilage. An incision is made at the back of the ear and skin is removed to expose the ear cartilage. Part of the cartilage is folded or removed and the ear is allowed to bend naturally towards the side of the head. Non-removable stitches are usually placed along the cartilage to help maintain the new shape. The incision is then closed with fine stitches.
Following surgery the ears are covered with a multilayer dressing which is similar to the style of a turban. This bulky bandage promotes the best moulding and healing.
The procedure may be carried out under general anaesthesia or intravenous sedation.
Can I remain with my child during the procedure?
You may remain with your child until he or she goes into the operating room for the actual procedure. At this point in time their care will be passed to the trained medical staff. You will be able to see your child again immediately following the procedure and when any necessary post operative procedures and checks have been completed. Staff at the hospital will keep you informed of exactly what is happening at all times.
Recovery times do vary from one patient to another although in general recovery is rapid. Upon discharge you will have a head bandage which will need to be worn for 1-2 weeks. You will need to rest for a few days.
The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by oral pain killers. Significant pain is very rare.
After a week, the bulky bandages will be replaced with a lighter head dressing which will be worn for a week.
It is usual for the ears to be slightly swollen and bruised when the bandages are first removed although this should return to normal over the next couple of weeks.
The stitches are removed 2 weeks after the procedure. The patient then wears a head band, only at night for a further 4 weeks.
Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery maybe performed on both ears for a better balance. Surgical incisions are usually made behind the ear itself – resulting in no (or minimal) visible scarring. The scars usually fade with time but this may take up to 12 months. In general, you can expect any scarring that does occur to fade considerably with time although there is an individual variation in healing time and scar formation.
Most patients are able to return to school or work in one to two weeks but should avoid sport and strenuous exercise for up to 6-8 weeks. Due to the nature of some playground activities, parents will need to take special care of children who have recently undergone the procedure to ensure appropriate healing time and to minimise any potential complications.
Any activity in which the ear might be bent or traumatized should be avoided for 2 months. Most adults can go back to work about 1 week after surgery. You may work from home after a few days. Children can go back to school after 14 days or so, if they’re careful about playground activity. You may want to ask your child’s teacher to keep an eye on the child for a few weeks.
More Natural-Looking Ears
Following a successful otoplasty you can expect a more ‘normal’ shape with ears being positioned more closely against the head. Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. Don’t expect both ears to match perfectly. Perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. It is most important that you discuss your aims and expectations with us before the operation during your consultation.