Ear reshaping is a type of cosmetic surgery used to treat protruding ears. Ear reshaping operation is also known as otoplasty or pinnaplasty. Surgery to reshape the ears involves remodeling the cartilage into a less protruding shape. Generally, ear reshaping surgery is safe and most people are happy with the results. However there are risks to consider as any other cosmetic surgery, and it may be expensive. It’s usually done on children and young teenagers, although adults can also have it done. Ear pinning surgery is not suitable for children younger than 5 because their ears are still growing and developing. At a very young age, the ear cartilage is too soft to hold the stitches. The two main techniques for correcting protruding ears are:
otoplasty or pinnaplasty (pinning back the ears) – where the cartilage is remodeled to create the missing folds and position the ear closer to the head
ear splinting which involves resetting the soft cartilage and using a splint to keep the ear in the new position; it’s used to treat babies under six months old
When ear reshaping will be used?
Ear reshaping surgery is only used for children older than five because, until that age, their cartilage doesn’t hold its shape. Ear splinting is a procedure used for babies under six months old.
Ear reshaping procedure
Ear reshaping is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in an office-based surgical suite, hospital or outpatient surgery center. If you are admitted to the hospital, you will only stay one or two nights. To keep you comfortable during your procedure, you will be given local or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia numbs the ear and surrounding area and is combined with a sedative to keep you relaxed but awake during surgery. General anesthesia keeps you asleep throughout the entire procedure and is typically recommended for children. Ear reshaping usually takes about two to three hours, according to the extent of the surgery and technique used. During the ear reshaping procedure, the surgeon begins by making an incision behind the ear, at the point where the ear naturally joins the head. The cartilage will then be sculpted and bent 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.
Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear. Skin will be removed and stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage. In most cases, after healing, there will be a thin scar behind the ear. However, because this scar is in the natural crease of the ear, it is barely visible.
What are the complications and side effects of an ear reshaping?
As with any surgery, there are risks. With otoplasty, more uncommon complications can include infection or bleeding. However, complications are rare and most people are extremely satisfied with the results. You should expect to experience mild to moderate pain; your surgeon will prescribe a painkiller if necessary. A prescription antibiotic in some cases is prescribed.
Contact your doctor immediately in case:
You develop a fever.
You experience excessive bleeding or swelling.
If, for any reason, you have any trauma to your surgical site.
Ear Reshaping Recovery
Recovery is different from a person to another for each patient and the healing process occurs in stages. When surgery is done, you will be taken into a recovery area to be closely monitored. In most cases, patients are permitted to go home after a few hours, although some patients stay overnight for one or two days. Your head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but your surgeon can prescribe medications to relieve any discomfort. For a week or more, you will be required to sleep on elevated pillows, and not on your side, to avoid putting any pressure on your ears.
Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions and guidelines for resuming your regular daily routine. Although you may feel better after a day or two, it is recommended that you take it easy for the first week after surgery. Your bandage will be removed within a few days and replaced by another head dressing, which is similar to a headband. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. In most cases, after a week, any temporary stitches will be removed. Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work within five days after surgery. Children can go back to school after a week if they’re careful about playground activity. You may want to ask your child’s teacher to keep an eye on your child for a few weeks.
Your surgeon will schedule frequent follow-up visits in the months after surgery to check on your progress. If any unusual symptoms develop or you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call your surgeon’s office.
Frequently Asked Questions
DO I NEED TO WEAR A BANDAGE AFTER SURGERY?
We regard the healing cartilage like a healing bone and need to splint the ear in its new position as it heals. A week is long enough, but if you do not relish the idea of wearing a turban-like bandage, then headbands are adequate. If the surgery does not involve the cartilage, then a head bandage is not a requirement and the stitches can be masked with simple tape.
IS EAR RESHAPING SURGERY PAINFUL?
Most patients only have minor pain and discomfort during the days following the ear reshaping surgery, this can be controlled with over the counter medications such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets.
Ears can be tender for 1-2 weeks following the initial surgery if the patient bumps their ear. However, by this time most patients are pain-free.
WHAT DOES EAR RESHAPING SURGERY INVOLVE?
An ear reshaping surgery for an older child, age 6 and over, or an adult, can be performed by one of our plastic surgeons under local anesthetic. This minor surgery usually involves making a single incision behind the ear, exposing the cartilage. The cartilage is scored and stitched to produce the desired position and shape.
HOW LONG IS THE RECOVERY TIME AFTER EAR RESHAPING SURGERY?
After the first 24-72 hours, most of the initial swelling from the ear reshaping surgery will begin to dissipate. Between 72 hours and a week, lots of patients will feel comfortable enough to return to work according to their hairstyle and tolerance of the swelling regarding both social situations and responsibilities involved at work. After 3 months the swelling should have completely subsided, and all that remains are slightly pink scars where the incisions were made. The scars are very small on the back of the ear and can be settled faster with the use of scar optimizing gels.