Frequently Asked Questions About Otoplasty
Otoplasty, sometimes referred to as ear pinning, is a surgical procedure designed to address prominent ears. Ears that are too large or protrude can be the cause of self consciousness and embarrassment, especially in children. During otoplasty, the ears may be pinned back or cartilage can be removed to help the ears lie closer to the head. The size of the ears can also be altered if that is an issue.
If you are in good health, without a lift-threatening illness, you may be a candidate for otoplasty. Adults must be non-smokers and have realistic expectations for the outcome of surgery. Children must be able to cooperate and follow instructions. This is important for both surgery and recovery. They also need to be able to communicate their feelings, be able to describe if something hurts or not, and not object to the procedure.
Otoplasty is commonly performed on small children. Patients must be at least 5 years old, at which point the ears have fully developed. Performing the surgery prior to starting school can benefit children with prominent ears by eliminating the source of teasing from others. Another benefit at this age is that the cartilage is more pliable and easier to work with. Many adults also elect to have otoplasty later on in life in combination with facelifts when their ears become more noticeable.
During your consultation you will need to disclose your medical history, such as previous and existing conditions, drug allergies, medications you are taking, and prior surgeries. The doctor will want to discuss what you are hoping to achieve through otoplasty. He will examine the ears and evaluate your viability as an otoplasty candidate. Options for surgical techniques will be discussed, as will other factors associated with the procedure, such as instructions for before and after surgery and risks.
To get ready for your otoplasty procedure, the doctor may request lab results or indications from your primary physician that you are cleared for surgery. Certain medications and substances that can cause excess bleeding during of after surgery will need to be avoided beginning a few weeks to a few days prior to your otoplasty. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, alcohol and salty foods. Patients will also need to cease smoking prior to surgery.
Outpatient otoplasty can be performed in an accredited surgeon’s office-based facility or an ambulatory surgical facility. The procedure can also be performed in a hospital.
Local anesthesia combined with IV sedation may be administered to otoplasty patients. General anesthesia is used when working with children, and is available for adults upon request.
The technique the surgeon uses for your otoplasty will depend on your ears. An incision may be made on the back side of the ear, through which cartilage will be removed to limit how much the ear sticks out from the head. Sutures can also be used to set back the ears. This will not alter the shape. The shape of the ear can be changed, however, with sutures to create anti-helical folds or through other surgical techniques. The size can be reduced as well.
Depending on the extent of the surgery, otoplasty typically ranges from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Some cases can take up to 2 ½ hours. The surgeon will be able to give you an estimate during your consultation.
The incisions made during an otoplasty procedure are highly inconspicuous, as most are made behind the ears. It is very difficult for anyone to notice any related scarring without close inspection.
Recovery following otoplasty may involve some pain, which typically passes after 1 – 2 days. Pain medication can be prescribed. There will be some swelling around the ear, which may involve discolorations in the skin of a red or bluish hue. This usually subsides within a week. Removable sutures will be taken out after 7 days. A headband will need to be worn at night for the first 3 weeks.
Every patient is unique, as is the way their body heals. The full length of recovery is usually 7 to 10 days, though restrictions will be put in place to protect the ears from trauma for several weeks. Most patients are able to return to work or school within a few days after surgery.
Every surgery has risks. Following the surgeon’s instructions will play a significant role in reducing risks and possible complications, which may include bleeding, blood clots, infection, changes in skin sensations, skin discoloration, scarring, and asymmetry of the ears. Pain can persist for an extended period of time. There are also complications that can arise with anesthesia. Some patients may have allergies to suture materials, tapes, glues or other products used. Revision surgery may be necessary under some circumstances.
Otoplasty is a usually an elective cosmetic procedure and is not covered by most health insurance plans. If surgery is used to correct a deformity or congenital abnormality, portions of the surgery may be covered. Check with your health insurance company prior to surgery to see what type of procedures they will and will not pay for.