For the most part, the operation is done on children between the ages of 4 and 14. Ear surgery on adults is also possible, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient. Adults may also benefit from this procedure, which improves self-esteem with relative ease. Often, adults choose this surgery in conjunction with other facial plastic surgical procedures. Not only is it possible to “pin back” ears, but ears can also be reshaped, reduced in size, or made more symmetrical.
The Highlights of Otoplasty
General good health and realistic expectations are prerequisites. It is also important to understand the surgery. Otoplasty will not alter hearing ability. What is important for successful otoplasty is that the ears be in proportion to the size and shape of the face and head.
When considering otoplasty, parents must be confident that they have their child's best interests at heart. A positive attitude toward the surgery is an important factor in all facial plastic surgery, but it is especially critical when the patient is a child or adolescent.
Adult candidates for otoplasty should understand that the firmer cartilage of fully developed ears does not provide the same molding capacity as in children. A consultation with a facial plastic surgeon can help parents decide what is best for their child, not only aesthetically, but also psychologically and physically. Timing is always an important consideration. Having the procedure at a young age is highly desirable in two respects: the cartilage is extremely pliable, thereby permitting greater ease of shaping; and secondly, the child will experience psychological benefits from the cosmetic improvement.
Ear Pinning Technique
With this method, the ear is effectively drawn and held closer to the head, while the cartilage is reshaped and held together in a more pleasant form.
The surgery is performed under local anesthetic with sedatives for adults, and usually general anesthetic for children (unless they're exceptionally brave and calm). An incision shaped like an American football is made in the back of the ear. The skin is parted to reveal the underlying cartilage. This is when a suture is usually made to bring the ear closer to the head. Sometimes a greater shift can be achieved by cutting some of the cartilage away to provide more slack. Depending on the severity of the case, some permanent sutures may be required.
When the surgery is complete, the wound is closed and the ear is covered with a pressure bandage that goes around the entire head. The patient can get up and walk, but should be driven home by someone else. After a few days the large ungainly bandage is replaced with a light dressing. Stitches for the incision are removed after a few weeks along with the dressing. Most patients should return to school or work in a week, but should any activities that could bend the ear for a few months.