OUR PROCEDURES & SERVICES
Ear surgery, otherwise known as otoplasty, is a surgical procedure that can reshape and reduce ear size, generally to promote symmetry. Not only is it possible to "pin back" ears for aesthetic reasons, but there are also a variety of ear problems than can be helped with otoplasty. 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. Reconstructive surgeons can even build new ears for those who were born without them or who have lost them through injury.
Insurance coverage is sometimes available for otoplasty, although it does not cover the surgery when performed for purely cosmetic reasons. Surgery to correct or improve birth defects or traumatic injuries may be reimbursable in whole or in part. It is the patient's responsibility to check with the insurance carrier for information on the degree of coverage.
The surgical technique for otoplasty may vary with each patient's condition. 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.
Otoplasty can be performed at any age after the ears have reached their full size, usually around five to six years of age. Adult candidates for otoplasty should understand that the firmer cartilage of fully developed ears does not provide the same molding capacity in children. Timing is always an important consideration. Having the procedure at a young age is highly desirable in two respects: the cartilage is extremely pliable, thereby permitting greater ease of shaping; and secondly, the child (patient) will experience psychological benefits from the cosmetic improvement.
Surgery and Anesthesia
Otoplasty is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital, a doctor's office-based surgical facility, or in a freestanding surgery center. Occasionally, Dr. Chiu may recommend that the procedure be done as an inpatient procedure in which case you can plan on staying the night in the hospital. Ear surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although complicated procedures may take longer.
If the patient is a young child, general anesthesia may be recommended so that the he or she can sleep through the operation. For older children or adults, local anesthesia combined with a sedative is an alternative option. With this option, the patient will be awake, but in a relaxed state.
Soft, but bulky dressings will be applied to the ears following the procedure to promote effective molding and healing. Most patients experience some mild discomfort with ear aches, which can be relieved by medication. Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about one week.
Your sleep patterns may be altered if you are accustomed to sleeping on your side, since you should avoid placing pressure against the ear areas. In fact, 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 approximately seven days, if they are careful about playground activity.
Headbands are sometimes recommended to hold the ears in the desired position for two weeks after the surgery. Otoplasty will not alter hearing ability.
Risks associated with this surgical procedure are minimal. There will be a thin white scar behind the ear after healing. Because this scar is in a natural crease behind the ear, the problem of visibility is inconsequential. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. It 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; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.
Your New Look
Most patients, young and old alike are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind that the goal is improvement and natural-looking ears. For both ears to match in perfect symmetry is unlikely and unnatural. What is important for a successful otoplasty is that the ears be in proportion to the size and shape of the face and head.
*Some information extracted from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons