What Is Otoplasty?
Otoplasty include surgical techniques that correct cosmetic problems of the ears. Patients may decide to undergo otoplasty if they are unhappy with their ear size, shape, or position of the ears.
Otoplasty aims to surgically alter the position, size, and form of the ear to create a more pleasing overall appearance. The surgery creates a customized shape and location for each ear to make sure they both appear even and proportionate to the rest of the face.
Ear Surgery Consultation
Dr. Anu Bajaj will examine you and offer you a surgical option tailored to your unique needs. She will also discuss what you can expect in terms of the procedure and its results, any potential risks or side effects, and the estimated costs of your surgical options. Otoplasty before and after pictures will be available for viewing, but please keep in mind each procedure is tailored to the individual so results will vary.
Preparing for Otoplasty
Because ear surgery is deeply individualized, the preparation measures you will be asked to take will depend on your own procedure plans. Be sure to discuss any health conditions and any medications you take with Dr. Bajaj as you may be required to alter them. These medications may include aspirin, ibuprofen, and any other drugs that increase the risk of blood loss during surgery.
Depending on the specific otoplasty procedure, the procedure can be performed with either a general or local anesthetic. Local anesthesia can be used together with intravenous (IV) sedation if appropriate. Dr. Bajaj’s chosen surgical approach will dictate the type and location of incisions. Most otoplasty procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, and surgery times can range from one to three hours depending on the extent of the case. For patients who are undergoing ear pinning, an incision behind the ear allows Dr. Bajaj to reshape the cartilage and alter the ear’s position. During the surgery, Dr. Bajaj will make an incision behind the ear, along the crease. To decrease projection, she’ll remove a small amount of cartilage in this area. Once this is done, Dr. Bajaj will re-suture the cartilage, making the ears sit closer to the sides of your head. Sometimes it’s not even necessary to remove cartilage.
Otoplasty can be performed to decrease the size of ears that are disproportionately large, a condition also known as hypertrophy. The kind of reduction involved to decrease ear size varies widely depending on the dimensions of the ear. For instance, a procedure to reduce the size of the upper third will be significantly different from one that seeks to reduce an overly large lobe, or simple protrusion.
Common deformities that can be corrected by otoplasty include:
- Constricted ear: The pinna appears unusually small and juts out from the head to an abnormally high degree.
- Cryptotic ear: Also referred to as a hidden ear, this condition is when the helix is concealed beneath the skin.
- Macrotic ear: An overly prominent ear that also has overly large pinna.
- Underdeveloped antihelical fold.
- Microtia: Small ears.
- Macrotia: Large ears or large pinna.
- Cauliflower ear: Deformity caused by blunt force or trauma, sometimes accompanied by blood clotting or hematoma. This condition is common in athletes, especially boxers and wrestlers who often sustain injuries to the side of the head.
Ears that protrude from the head to some degree are common. Frequently, overly prominent ears can affect a patient’s self-confidence. Otoplasty can improve the appearance and correct the prominence by “pinning” back the ear.
If one ear is larger, lower, higher, or sticks out more than the other, they can be balanced by surgically altering one or both ears.
If the ears appear to be prominent, the ears can be “pinned” back. Typically, Dr. Bajaj will behind the ear and will reshape the cartilage so that the ear lies closer to the head – while still leaving space for reading glasses or sunglasses.
For those who have protruding ears, it may be a good idea to undergo ear pinning surgery at a young enough age to avoid unnecessary teasing by one’s peers.
Ear reductions reduce the size of an excessively large ear, also known as macrotia. This can be performed on a specific part of the appendage or several depending on your reshaping preferences.
In some instances, a version of the otoplasty procedure may be performed without the need for incision. This technique is primarily done for babies with birth defects that make the ear or ears appear warped and involves molding of the ear.
Otoplasty is often undertaken by teenage or adult candidates, but children can also be considered if they have sufficiently firm cartilage to allow a safe surgery, typically after the age of five. Some children are born with ear deformities, a series of conditions which affects between 20 and 30 percent of newborns, and parents may wish to address this issue as early as possible.
In certain cases, a version of non-surgical otoplasty, or “tissue molding”, can be performed to correct the deformity. This type of molding must be performed in the newborn period to be effective. Otherwise, the problem can be fixed surgically after the age of five.
Older patients that have cosmetic or medical problems with one or both ears should be assessed to ensure they are healthy enough to have surgery. Smoking and certain medications may put you at a higher risk of complication. It is beneficial to have a specific and realistic expectation of what you would like the surgery to achieve before actually undergoing surgery.
Recovery Process After an Otoplasty
The full recovery time for otoplasty can take several months. Patients are required to wear surgical dressing and a compression bandage around the head to protect the ear during the first few days post-surgery. This dressing is replaced with a looser headband as needed. All bandages may be removed about three to seven days after surgery, and Dr. Bajaj will indicate whether a headband should be worn at night or more often. Swelling will go down during this time and patients can usually return to work within a week. Some patients may experience stinging or aching in their ears, which is normal after this type of surgery. Dr. Bajaj will prescribe the appropriate pain medication to manage discomfort.
It is important that you do not touch the bandages and that you don’t get them wet as they help ensure a positive surgical outcome.
During the healing period, patients should take the following measures:
- Avoid sleeping on the side of the face.
- Avoid any strenuous physical activity.
- Avoid high heat, including blow dryers and heaters within close proximity.
- Be very careful when brushing your hair and when wearing glasses.
- Stay away from harsh hair products, soaps, and shampoo.
- Get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy lifestyle to promote proper healing.
- Follow Dr. Bajaj’s personalized care instructions carefully, including filling prescriptions for any recommended pain medications and applying any ointments she recommends as well.
The results of your otoplasty procedure will become fully visible after the swelling and bruising diminish. Be aware that what you see in the days immediately after the procedure does not represent that long-term outcome of surgery, which only becomes evident with time and healing. Otoplasty operations should be permanent and keep your ear looking aesthetically pleasing and proportionate.