Ear reshaping

What is an otoplasty procedure and why is it performed?

An otoplasty procedure can help men, women and children over 5 years of age to overcome the embarrassment and distress caused by irregular shaped or protruding ears.

It is now widely accepted that it can be psychologically harmful for children and adolescents to leave protruding and irregular shaped ears to become a point of undue attention throughout developing years. Consequently, ear correction surgery is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures provided to children.

The ultimate objective is for the surgeon to create a natural, proportionate and symmetrical appearance, leaving no visible sign that surgery has taken place.

An otoplasty procedure can involve the surgical refining of the size, shape and position of the ear, or a combination of all three of these conditions.

What kind of people request this procedure?

  • Children and adolescents, who are self conscious about their protruding ears
  • Men and women, who feel restricted in their choice of haircut, in order to hide their protruding ears
  • Men who find it more difficult to hide their protruding ears as their hair thins with age

How is an otoplasty procedure performed?

An otoplasty is performed by refining or thinning the cartilaginous structure from behind the ear. Surgical incisions are usually placed behind the ear in the natural crease (where the ear margin joins the side of the head) and consequently scars from this particular procedure are not usually visible. Occasionally, for the correction of large ear lobes, external incisions may need to be positioned on or around the lobe area, but these excisions are usually insignificant in size and tend to blend in with the natural contour and creases around the ear lobe once healing is complete.

Following the surgical re-contouring of the cartilage, the skin at the back of the ear is re-draped and secured in place by surgical sutures (stitches) and then supported in the new position by a carefully applied, turban style pressure bandage. This pressure bandage typically stays in place for around 5 - 7 days following surgery.

This procedure is usually performed as a day case under local anaesthetic or may involve a one night's stay in hospital if performed under general anaesthetic. Under normal conditions a typical otoplasty procedure can take around 1 hour to perform.

What are the results like?

This procedure can provide excellent results. The procedure is a very precise one and should only be performed by a Consultant Plastic or Consultant ENT Surgeon who is fully qualified and experienced to skilfully perform this type of surgery.

Improved results will take place almost immediately following otoplasty surgery, but these results will initially be obscured by the pressure bandaging and then the bruising and swelling which typically follows this type of procedure. It can take 7 to 14 days for this initial swelling and bruising to settle to an acceptable appearance. After initial swelling has settled down, subtle improvements to the contour of the newly shaped ear will take place for up to six months following surgery.

How will you feel after an otoplasty procedure and what is the recovery period like?

Following an otoplasty procedure the ear incision and surrounding skin area are often quite tender for several weeks after surgery. Analgesic tablets (pain killers) are always provided for any discomfort and patients are encouraged to stay as upright as possible during their early recovery stage to help diminish residual swelling and bruising. Patients usually describe the way they feel as "sore and uncomfortable" rather than experiencing specific pain. These symptoms typically diminish rapidly after postoperative bandaging is removed.

Each surgeon's otoplasty technique can differ slightly and surgical wounds can be sutured with either absorbable or unabsorbable stitches. If stitches need removing, they are normally removed 5 - 7 days following surgery.

Patients are asked to avoid any level of activity that would put undue strain on the newly operated areas and to avoid contact sports for six weeks following surgery.

It is important for patients to keep their hands away from healing wounds and to pay meticulous attention to personal hygiene throughout the early post operative period.

It is usual for patients to take at least one week to rest and recover at home following this procedure.

Are there any risks involved in ear reshaping surgery?

All surgery involves an element of risk from developing complications. However, cosmetic surgery is usually undertaken voluntarily and only when a patient is in good health. Therefore, the probability of experiencing complications following this kind of surgery is substantially lower than for those who undergo surgery due to ill health.

Risks such as bleeding, infection, delayed healing, alteration in sensitivity and scarring will all be discussed openly at consultation, as well as our scrupulous efforts to manage and minimise these risks. It is often reported that altered sensitivity and numbness to the ears is a common side effect for up to 12 months following otoplasty surgery.

Mostly, the fine incisions and subsequent scars made during surgery are well hidden behind the ear.

The recovery and appearance of scars (which generally fade progressively after surgery), are a highly individual matter. Usually these fine scars mature, soften and fade to a negligible level. Occasionally, patients can develop firm, raised discoloured scarring, known as hypertrophic or keloid scarring, which may require further corrective treatment.

What next?

The importance of a thorough pre-operative consultation with the actual Consultant Plastic or ENT Surgeon who will perform your operation cannot be over stressed. At One Healthcare each consultation is tailored to an individual's needs. The consultation will always involve a thorough evaluation of your present and past medical history and a physical examination of the area of concern.

Your surgeon will take time to listen to your concerns and take care to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what can be done to help, the procedure itself, the recovery stages and a clear explanation of the risks involved. You will need time to consider all these factors before making a decision regarding having an otoplasty procedure.

You are positively encouraged to ask any questions that you may have and to look at photographs of others who have had the same type of surgery that you are considering. If you would find it helpful, our advisory team may be able to arrange for you to speak with a previous One Healthcare patient who is willing to discuss their experience with you over the telephone.

How to arrange a consultation with a fully qualified Consultant with GMC specialist registration

Please feel free to call our Customer Service Advisory Team at your local One Healthcare Hospital who will be pleased to answer any queries, or make an appointment for you to meet with a Consultant Surgeon who has specialist skills and experience in ear reshaping surgery.

Our Customer Advisory Service is personally manned between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. We will also be happy to discreetly return your call if you leave a short message, forwarding name and telephone number on our confidential answer phone after office hours.

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