Is Ear Surgery Right for You?

If you’ve always been bothered by the shape or size of your ears, you may have considered ear surgery before. Ear reshaping surgery, or otoplasty, is a procedure most often performed to set prominent ears closer to the head or to reduce the size of overly large ears. It is an ideal way to correct many common complaints about the ears, especially those which feel out of proportion in relation to the rest of one’s facial features. Ear surgery is a straightforward, routine procedure that poses very little risk to the patient, so much so that it is very commonly performed on children as young as 4, when the ears are nearly fully formed.

Reasons for Ear Surgery

If you’re considering ear surgery for yourself or your child, chances are you already have some cosmetic issues in mind for correction. Ear surgery can help with several aberrations and common unwanted features.

  • Ear surgery can resolve a condition called “cup ear” that results from the overdevelopment of the cartilage that forms the concha bowl. This condition creates a widened ear and a disproportionately large central area.
  • Ear surgery can also correct “lop ear,” which occurs when the anti-helical fold fails to develop correctly or in balance with the rest of the features of the ear. Often, lop ear and cup ear are present together, creating an overly pronounced ear shape.
  • Ear surgery’s most common function is to correct protruding ears. Protruding ears are placed too far forward on the head or angled too far outward, sticking out on either or both sides. Many patients refer to protruding ears as “bat wings” or “elephant ears.”

Any and all of these are reasons to consider ear surgery from a plastic surgeon, whether you are concerned about your own ears or your child’s. Consult with a surgeon about your options for an ear correction surgery.

The Otoplasty Procedure

Ear surgery typically lasts for one to three hours and is most often performed under general anesthesia for both adults and children. If you are having a complicated procedure, however, your surgery may last longer than the average timeframe. The technique for your surgery will also depend on your particular case.

The most common ear surgery technique consists of the plastic surgeon making a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. The surgeon then sculpts the cartilage and bends it back toward the head to achieve the desired results. Sometimes, non-removable stitches will be used to maintain the new shape of the ear. In some cases, the surgeon will need to remove a larger piece of ear cartilage to create a more natural-looking fold after surgery.

In another ear surgery technique, a small incision is placed in the back of the ear to remove excess skin. Stitches are then used to fold the cartilage back on itself, and the ear is reshaped without the need to remove cartilage.

After surgery, no matter which technique is used, a small faint scar may be left on the back of the ear. This will fade with time and will also be placed in an inconspicuous spot. If only one of your ears is protruding, your surgeon will still perform surgery on both of your ears to ensure that they are well-balanced and even in their appearance.

Recovering From Ear Surgery

There is little downtime after ear surgery. Patients of all ages are commonly moving around within just a few hours following ear surgery. Many parents of child patients, however, opt to stay overnight in the hospital until the effects of the general anesthesia have worn off. Immediately following surgery, the patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage to help with the healing process and with the molding of the ears. It is normal to experience some throbbing or aching in the ears for a few days, but this discomfort can be relieved with medication prescribed by the surgeon.

After a few days, the bandages are replaced with a lighter dressing around the head, much like a headband. The surgeon will provide clear directions on when and for how long the headband should be worn in order to mold the ears correctly. Most patients will be instructed to wear the headband nightly for several weeks. After one week, the stitches will be removed and the headband will become integral to the healing process.

For the first month after surgery, you will likely be restricted from activities that may result in bending the ear. Adult patients typically return to work after five days following surgery, and most children are able to return to school after about seven days, though playground activities should be restricted. Most parents ask for the teacher’s help when it comes to ensuring their child avoids activity that could harm the ears.

The Risks of Ear Surgery

There is no surgery, whether cosmetic or medical in nature, which is completely free of risk. Ear surgery is one that involves very few risks. Most often, patients who are experiencing complications have a negative reaction to the general anesthesia. Some adult patients may have the option of using local anesthetics and IV sedation if there is a risk of a bad reaction; discuss your options with your plastic surgeon if you have concerns.

Perhaps the next most common surgical risk, although still rare, is infection following surgery. By paying attention to the side effects you experience during the healing process, any infection around the surgical area may be detected and treated early. On the whole, ear surgery carries a much lower risk of infection than most other surgeries. To prevent infection and other potential complications from developing, choose an experienced, credentialed plastic surgeon to perform your ear surgery.

Start With an Ear Surgery Consultation

At Weniger Plastic Surgery, Frederick G. Weniger, M.D., F.A.C.S. offers patients years of experience and knowledge during one-on-one consultations regarding the surgeries and nonsurgical treatments available at their practice. Dr. Weniger is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. He believes good information lies at the heart of success in all of his surgeries and interactions with his patients.

To schedule a consultation for any aesthetic surface or other procedure, contact the office of Weniger Plastic Surgery today at 843-757-0123. They are located at 350 Fording Rd, Suite 200, in Blufton, South Carolina.