Prominent ear correction surgery
If you are considering ear correction surgery, for yourself or your child, there may be some questions you would like answered. Ear surgery, or otoplasty, 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 can be done on children between the ages of four and fourteen, though LPSA treats patients of twelve years upwards. Prominent ear correction surgery on adults is also possible, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.
The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) will give you a basic understanding of the prominent ear correction surgery procedure - when it can help, how it is performed, and what results you can expect. These can't answer all of your questions, since a great deal depends on your individual circumstances, however, your surgeon will be happy to answer any further queries that you may have.
How do I plan for my or my child's ear surgery?
During the initial consultation, your surgeon will evaluate and assess the scope of correction required and recommend the most effective technique. LPSA also sees children over the age of twelve for corrective ear surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery and advise you of any risks or complications during the consultation.
At LPSA, we recommend that parents stay alert to their child's feelings about protruding ears and don't insist on the ear correction surgery until your child wants the change. Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the ear correction surgery are generally more cooperative during the process and happier with the outcome.
How do I prepare for surgery?
Your surgeon will give you instructions to help you prepare yourself or your child for surgery. These may include guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications.
If you are having ear surgery yourself, while making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your ear surgery and to help you out for a few days, if needed.
Where will the ear surgery be performed?
The surgery is performed at one of several of London's best private hospitals, according to your preference and the availability of operating time. You or your child will usually be admitted on the day of surgery, and stay until the early evening. Occasionally, an overnight stay will be indicated. If you are having surgery yourself, you will need a friend or relative to accompany you home after your stay in the hospital.
What takes place during the surgery?
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.
Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear. Skin is removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage.
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance.
What about other ear problems?
Besides protruding ears, there are a variety of other ear problems that can be helped with surgery. These include: "lop ear," when the tip seems to fold down and forward; "cupped ear," which is usually a very small ear; and "shell ear," when the curve in the outer rim, as well as the natural folds and creases, are missing. Surgery can also improve large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with large creases and wrinkles. Surgeons can even build new ears for those who were born without them or who lost them through injury.
Sometimes, however, the ear correction surgery can leave a scar that is worse than the original problem. Ask your surgeon about the effectiveness of ear correction surgery for your specific case.
How long will the ear surgery take?
Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although complicated procedures may take longer. The technique will depend on the problem.
How long will it take before life returns to normal?
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 anaesthesia wear off.
The patient's head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best moulding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication.
Within a few days, bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head dressing. Be sure to follow your surgeon's directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. Non-dissolvable stitches are usually removed in about a week. Dissolvable stitches usually disappear within six weeks.
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 are careful about playground activity. You may want to ask your child's teacher to keep an eye on the child for a few weeks.
How will I feel about my or my child's new look?
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery as long as you keep in mind that the goal is improvement, not perfection. Don't expect both ears to match perfectly as symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. If you've discussed the procedure and your expectations with the surgeon before the operation it is likely that you'll be pleased with the result.
Does ear surgery carry any risk?
Ear surgery complications are infrequent and usually minor. However, as with any operation, there are certain risks and complications associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this ear correction procedure.
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. This 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 and, rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.