Technically known as otoplasty, this procedure is usually done to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears.
For the most part, the operation is done on children between the ages of four and 14. Ear surgery on adults is also possible, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.
Planning Your Surgery
Most surgeons recommend that parents stay alert to their child’s feelings about protruding ears; don’t insist on the surgery until your child wants the change.
In the initial meeting, your surgeon will evaluate your child’s condition, or yours if you are considering surgery for yourself, and recommend the most effective technique.
Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although complicated procedures may take longer. The technique will depend on the problem.
With one of the more common techniques, the surgeon makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. He or she will then sculpt the cartilage and bend it back toward the head. Non-removable stitches may be used to help maintain the new shape. Occasionally, the surgeon will remove a larger piece of cartilage to provide a more natural-looking fold when the surgery is complete.
After Your Surgery
Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery, although you may prefer to stay overnight in the hospital with a child until all the effects of general anesthesia wear off.
Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work about five days after surgery. Children can go back to school after seven days or so, if they’re careful about playground activity.
All Surgery Carries Some Uncertainty and Risk
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. It may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a needle. Occasionally, patients develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.