Ear surgery or otoplasty is an elective cosmetic procedure that either reshapes, remodels or reconstructs the ‘pinna/auricle’ or cartilaginous portion of the outer ear. This procedure can mend the proportion, size and position of the ear making it seem smaller and more symmetrical.
Otoplasty has three types of procedures:
- Ear pinning – used to tuck the ear from behind and reduce protrusion.
- Ear augmentation – used to increase the size of the outer ear in case of deformation or reductive growth
- Ear reduction – used to reduce large ears (macrotia).
This treatment is most commonly sought after for patients who have protruding and asymmetrical ears. In that case, they choose the ‘ear pinning’ treatment, it begins with routine pre-procedural steps (sterilization, marking & local anaesthesia). The surgeon then makes a small incision in the cartilage, behind the ear. Later non-removable or dissolvable sutures are used to ‘tuck’ the ear without removing any cartilage, this pulls the ear back making it less protruding and the ear appears smaller. The procedure is completed by covering the head and ears with a protective dressing.
In the case of ear reconstruction due to injury, the procedure may vary depending on the patient’s requirements.
This procedure can be performed at any age. However, it is not recommended if the patient has a history of high uncontrollable blood pressure, bleeding disorders or excessive scarring/keloids.
Consultation – before the surgery consultations are a must to check eligibility, past medical history and relay expectations.
Duration – the entire surgery should last 2 to 3 hours.
Downtime – 2 to 4 weeks until normal activities can be resumed.
Sleeping position – it is recommended to sleep on the back to avoid pushing the ears forward.
Medication – the patient will have to stop any counter-acting medication like blood thinners prior and post-surgery.
Itchiness – the sutures and dressing may cause some mild discomfort and itchiness.
Pain killers & creams – the patient will be required to take pain killers and apply topical creams as prescribed by the surgeon.
Permanent results – after healing has been completed, the results will be immediately visible and permanent. Reconstruction can be performed that may reverse the effect.
Habits – habitual desires like smoking and drinking alcohol will be prohibited a few weeks before the surgery and into recovery. Smoking interferes with blood flow to the ears and alcohol will interact with prescribed medication.
Recovery & Maintenance:
Post-procedure, the patient is advised not to sleep on their sides and to avoid strenuous activities like exercise, which prevents sweat and potential infection.
Bandages around the head will be removed after 2 to 4 weeks.
Afterwhich, the patient can resume normal activities and will be instructed to wear a headband for another 6 to 8 weeks (this will ensure that the ear is not affected while rolling in bed).
There should be no complications, provided the patient follows the advisory plan provided by the practitioner.
Limitations & complications:
Infection – the wound may become infected if proper instructions are not followed.
Skin sensation – there may be changes in skin sensation around the area which is usually temporary.
Suture extrusion – the stitches may come above the skin and will have to be removed or reapplied.
Asymmetry – both ears may not look identical and the contours of the ear may not look as natural as before.