Otoplasty refers to a procedure that improves the shape of the ears. The most common type of otoplasty performed is designed to decrease the profile of protruding ears, a condition known as prominent ear. When an otoplasty is performed for prominent ears, the ears are pinned back closer to the head, producing a more aesthetic contour.
Prominent ears are so due to certain developmental events which cause the ear cartilages to grow aberrantly. Ears which are prominent have certain abnormalities in the cartilage structures, which causes the upper internal surfaces of the ears to appear flattened and the entire ear structure to protrude from the side of the head.
Various techniques have been devised to correct these two anatomic issues. These techniques include suturing or scoring the cartilage elements of the ear to change their shapes. Certain cartilage pieces may be excised as well to assist with shaping. These techniques are all performed through an incision in the crease behind the ear.
Otoplasty can be performed with sedation and local anesthetic or under a general anesthetic depending upon the difficulty of the correction and the desires of the patient. Dr. Chang performs her otoplasties in the hospital, and patients can leave the same day with supervision.
Postoperative compliance is vital in otoplasty to ensure the best results. Ear cartilage in general has a great deal of “memory”, and thus even when scored or secured with sutures, wants to return to its original configuration. After surgery, patients are placed in a head wrap for a few days in order to control swelling and to maintain the ear shape. Once the head wrap is removed, patients are asked to remain in a head band for at least 2 weeks. This will provide consistent pressure to the area in order to preserve the ear shape.
Initial recovery from otoplasty is about a week, and patients generally take from 5-7 days off work. Exercise and strenuous activity should be avoided for about 3 weeks. The biggest risk in otoplasty is that the ear returns to its former configuration. Fortunately, this does not usually occur. Some milder degree of relapse, however, may occur. Other risks include bleeding, infection, numbness, and anesthetic complications. These are quite unusual.
Patients with the most severe degrees of prominent ear generally have otoplasties performed in early childhood. Patients with milder degrees may delay treatment longer depending upon their personal circumstances. No matter the age, otoplasty results in happy, satisfied patients by correcting an ear deformity and improving one’s overall look.