Cosmetic ear surgery may be done in the surgeon’s office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital. It can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the ears.
Or, it can be done under general anesthesia, in which you are asleep and pain-free. The procedure usually lasts about 2 hours.
Ear correction surgery is a straightforward procedure that takes no more than two hours. It’s performed under local anaesthetic, so there’s no hospital stay and a fast recovery time.
Otoplasty refers to any ear correction procedure that involves removing or reshaping the cartilage that makes up your ears.
The procedure can ‘pin back’ ears that stick out, make larger ears smaller or improve the ears’ appearance if they’ve become misshapen from activities like rugby or boxing.
How it is done
The good news is that medical advancements have made it much easier to undergo an otoplasty. Currently, there are several ways the ear can be reshaped.
One involves cutting out the cartilage (the main structural component) of the ear. Another involves folding and stitching that cartilage instead of cutting it away. In the latter scenario, skin is cut away instead of cartilage.
In either case, your surgeon will begin by making a small incision at the back of your ear, allowing access the cartilage for the necessary procedure. After the surgery is complete, the incision site will be secured with stitches.
During the most common method of cosmetic ear surgery, a surgeon makes a cut in the back of the ear and removes the skin to see the ear cartilage.
The cartilage is folded to reshape the ear, bringing it closer to the head. Sometimes the surgeon will cut the cartilage before folding it. Sometimes skin is removed from behind the ear. Stitches are used to close the wound.
Why the Procedure is Performed
The procedure can be done after a child reaches age 5 or 6, when ear growth is almost finished. However, if the ears are very disfigured (lop ears), the child should have surgery early to avoid possible emotional stress at school.
What To Expect and How To Prepare
In your consultation, you will be able to discuss all your expectations with your surgeon. Together, you can decide which option is best for you or your child.
You should plan to stay home at least one week after the surgery; for children, they should stay home from school for at least one week.
The actual surgery will last about two to three hours, depending on the complexity of the procedure for your particular case. Again, if your situation requires a more complex procedure, it may take even longer than three hours. Your surgeon will detail all of this for you.
If you are an adult, your surgeon probably will use local anesthesia with a sedative. A child will likely receive general anesthesia (put to sleep) to ensure that he or she cannot move around during the operation.
If the patient is receiving general anesthesia, he or she cannot eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery or the morning of the surgery. The last meal the night before should be very light.
Most otoplasties are performed in the surgeon’s office or in an outpatient facility.
You should be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Do not wear a shirt with a restrictive collar. Ideally, you should wear a button down shirt that you do not have to pull over your head.
This is especially important for children, to avoid any unnecessary impact to the surgery site.
If you are an adult, the surgery will be completed within a few hours and you can go home the same day. It’s a good idea to have someone with you who can drive you home and stay with you the first night.
Sometimes, in the case of children, the doctor will prefer that they stay in the hospital one night. If you are undergoing a more complex procedure as an adult, you also may be required to stay in the hospital overnight.
Complications such as blood clots and infection are uncommon.
Other risks of the procedure include:
- Areas of numbness
- Increased feeling of cold
- Recurrence of the ear deformity
- Keloids and other scars
- Poor results
After the Procedure
The ears are covered with a thick bandage after surgery. Any tenderness and discomfort can be controlled with medication. If the surgery is done in a hospital, the patient should go home the same day or the next day.
The ear bandages are removed after 2 – 4 days. However, the patient will need to wear a light head wrap or headband for 2 – 3 weeks to help the area heal. The patient can resume normal activities when the ears heal.
Scars are very light and are hidden in the creases behind the ears.
The child might need a second procedure if the ear sticks out again.