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What is Otoplasty?

Garry Crystal
Garry Crystal

Otoplasty is a surgical procedure that sets back prominent ears closer to the head. For many people, having prominent ears may be the cause of some embarrassment. Teasing at school may have affected their confidence and they might find social situations awkward. Otoplasty can help enhance the way they look and boost their confidence levels.

Otoplasty is an operation that can be performed on a child as early as four years old, as ears are fully formed at this age. If the problem is significant enough to warrant surgery, the child may be saved from any teasing and ridicule he or she may have to endure at school. The surgery can also be performed on adults with no additional risk involved.

An otoplasty should last two or three hours, unless there are complications.
An otoplasty should last two or three hours, unless there are complications.

Before the otoplasty, the surgeon will evaluate the child’s feelings towards the surgery. A parent should never insist that a child have the surgery. This will only make the child more uncomfortable about their ears. If the child wants the surgery, then they are usually more cooperative during the process and happier with the final outcome. The surgeon will explain the process involved to the patient and tell them what to expect during surgery.

Otoplasty is an outpatient procedure performed in a surgical facility or hospital. In some cases, the doctor may recommend that the patient stay overnight in the hospital as in inpatient. General anesthesia will be used if the child is very young, enabling them to sleep during the operation. Older children and adults will be given local anesthesia and sedatives. This will leave them awake but very drowsy throughout the surgery.

The surgery should only last two to three hours. More complicated procedures may take longer. There are different surgical techniques used depending on the ear problem itself.

The most common otoplasty surgery involves a small incision behind the ear to expose the cartilage. The cartilage is sculpted and bent back towards the head, and if necessary, cartilage is removed to give a more natural fold to the ear. Non-removable stitches are then used to maintain the new shape.

Another otoplasty technique is to remove skin around the ear and use stitches to bend the cartilage back on itself, reshaping the ear. No cartilage is removed in this operation. After the operation, the patient’s head is wrapped in a bandage to keep the ears safely in place and aid healing.

Patients can usually leave the hospital a few hours after surgery. Throbbing or earache is not uncommon and should disappear within a few days. If it does not, medication can be given to relieve the pain.

There are always risks with any surgery, but complications are usually infrequent and very minor with otoplasty. A very small percentage of patients may develop blood clots on the ear. In most cases, these will dissolve naturally, or a needle may be used to draw out the blood. Another risk may be an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. This can either be treated by draining the infected area or with medication such as antibiotics.

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    • An otoplasty should last two or three hours, unless there are complications.
      By: Tom Wang
      An otoplasty should last two or three hours, unless there are complications.