Also called ear surgery, otoplasty is a surgery that targets the reduction and reshaping of the ear to achieve a more symmetrical look. For aesthetic purposes, some patients undergo otoplasty in order to “pin back” the ears, but there are a number of other ear problems that can be addressed with otoplasty. These ear issues are namely: (1) “top ear,” a condition where the tip of the ear folds forward and down, (2) “cupped ear,” a term for a very tiny ear, (3) “shell ear,” wherein there are missing outer rim curves, creases, and natural folds. Otoplasty can also fix stretched, large, creased, and wrinkled earlobes. For patients who were born without ears or lost their ears due to an accident or injury, surgeons may build a new set of ears and attach them thru surgery.
Otoplasty is sometimes covered by insurance, but not when the surgery is done purely for cosmetic purposes. Ear surgeries performed to change or correct birth defects and injuries may be reimbursed in part or in whole. Patients should check with their insurance carrier to get complete details on the coverage of their insurance policy.
How is otoplasty done?
Depending on the condition of the patient, otoplasty methods and techniques may vary. One common technique utilized by surgeons is the creation of a small incision on the back area of the ear in order to reveal the ear cartilage. Sculpting of the ears will then be done, bending it back nearer to the head. The surgeons may use non-removable stitches in order to maintain the ear’s new shape. On some occasions, a large portion of the cartilage may be removed in order to create a natural-looking fold after the surgery is completed.
Another technique used in otoplasty is making a similar incision on the back area of the ear, followed by the removal of the skin. Stitches are then used in order to create a folding-back effect of the cartilage and to reshape the ears without having to remove cartilage.
Do I qualify for otoplasty?
Otoplasty may be performed on any patient provided that the ears already have reached full maturity and size. This usually happens at around the ages of 5 to 6 years. It is important for adults to understand that the molding capacity of children’s ears are significantly better than the ears of an adult, whose ear cartilage tends to be firmer. Therefore, timing for otoplasty should always be considered. Undergoing otoplasty at a younger age is more preferable since the cartilage would be easier to remold, and the patient will be able to benefit from the positive psychological effects of this cosmetic surgery.
It is important for the patient to communicate goals clearly to the otoplasty surgeons prior to the operation. These goals must be realistic and within what Drs. Hall and Wrye would consider to be possible and safe. Having good health is also an advantage, though not a requirement, when getting an otoplasty.
How will surgery go about?
Ear surgery is typically done in a freestanding surgery center, an office-based facility, or in a hospital. Drs. Hall and Wrye may advise for the surgery to be performed as an inpatient procedure which usually involves staying overnight at the hospital. The entire operation usually takes approximately two to three hours, but more complicated cases may take longer.
Young patients, usually children in their early years, are given general anesthesia to allow them to sleep throughout the procedure. Older children and adults are recommended to have local anesthesia with an addition of a sedative which results in a relaxed and awake state throughout the procedure.
What happens during recovery?
Following the surgery, soft bulky dressings are placed on the ears in order to promote and accommodate optimum healing and molding. Mild discomfort may be felt by the patient, coupled with ear aches. These minor pains are easily addressed by the post-surgery medication that Drs. Hall and Wrye will prescribe. In about a week’s time, stitches will dissolve or be removed.
Otoplasty patients should also expect alterations in their sleeping patterns, since your sleeping positions should prevent putting pressure on your operated ear/s. Patients should also avoid all other activities which may require them to bend their ear area or may likely put strain on their ears. After five days following the surgery, adults may go back to their normal work routine. Children are advised to go back to school after seven days and should be strictly instructed to avoid any playground activity.
On some occasions, headbands are recommended in order to hold the patient’s ears in the preferred position for approximately two weeks following surgery. No alteration in one’s hearing ability will happen as a result of otoplasty.
What are the risks that go with getting otoplasty?
There are generally minimal risks involved when it comes to ear surgery. After recovery, patients will notice a thin scar lining in the back area of the ear which is not visible since it follows the ear’s natural crease. In rare cases, some patients may develop blood clots on the ear which are easily removed through a needle or may dissolve entirely on their own. Other isolated cases involve patients developing cartilage infection which results in the formation of scar tissue. These infections are treated with prescribed antibiotics or a surgery that will drain the infection out of the problematic area.
In order to avoid these possible complications and risk, it is important for you to follow all instructions to be given by Drs. Hall and Wrye regarding your post-surgery routine, which includes physical caring and maintenance of prescription medication.
How will I look post-surgery?
Patients, both the young and old, are generally satisfied and happy with the results of their otoplasty. However, it is important to remember that the primary goal of an otoplasty is the improvement of the ears while still maintaining a natural look. It would be too unnatural and unlikely to require that both ears be perfectly matched and 100% symmetrical. Keep in mind that the goal of the otoplasty is for the ears to be proportional to the shape and size of the head and face. Dr. Hall and Dr. Wrye are experts in Otoplasty surgery located in Reno, Nevada, call us now for free consultation 775-284-8296.