Otoplasty, commonly known as cosmetic ear surgery, is a procedure designed to reshape, reposition, or change the size of the ears. This procedure optimizes symmetry but will not change the location of the ears or alter the ability to hear.
There are different techniques available to reshape the ears. These depend on what kind of corrections are desired and recommended by Dr. Campos-Leon. He will discuss the different options of incisions during consultation before the procedure.
What is otoplasty for?
People consider otoplasty when their ears protrude too far from their head, when they have large ears in relation to the size of the head, or if the person previously had surgery to correct this and was not satisfied. Otoplasty is performed on both ears to optimize symmetry.
An otoplasty does not change the location of the ears or alter the ability to hear of the person undergoing it. In summary, this surgery serves to reposition the prominent ears and provide them with a more normal and aesthetic position.
What does this surgery consist of?
An otoplasty is performed in an operating room, since it is the only place that meets all the health requirements to be able to carry out a procedure of this type. Depending on the type of anesthesia, the procedure may be outpatient or require an overnight stay in the clinic. The duration of this surgery is usually between 2 to 3 hours, although in some complex cases it may require more time. The technique used will depend on the specific case. A small incision is made in the back of the ear first to expose the ear cartilage. After the cartilage is sculpted and folded back, internal stitches can be used to maintain the new shape.
Sometimes it is necessary to remove a part of the cartilage to obtain a more natural aesthetic appearance of the ear. Finally, a wedge of skin is removed from the back of the ear. The scar that results from this procedure is hidden behind the ear. It is important to keep in mind that, even if only one of the ears is the one that has a problem, both will be operated to achieve a more symmetrical appearance.
Who is a candidate for this procedure?
The ideal candidate for this type of surgery is anyone who has prominent ears and wants to achieve a more aesthetic and natural appearance. Unlike other surgeries, otoplasty, in addition to being performed in adults, can also be carried out in children after the ears have reached their full size, which happens around five years of age.
When this procedure is carried out in minors, it is recommended that parents closely observe the behavior of the child in relation to their prominent ears, this procedure should not be insisted upon if the child does not want it.
It is normal for people to feel unsure about the results that an otoplasty can obtain, however, it must always be kept in mind that it will be an improvement and not absolute perfection. It is very important to talk to the surgeon about the expected results, so that the surgeon can provide an idea of what can be realistically obtained.
What kind of anesthesia is used?
If the surgery is being performed on a small child, the plastic surgeon will recommend performing the intervention under general anesthesia, meaning they will be fully asleep during the procedure. For older children and adults, local anesthesia will be used with or without sedation, so that they are awake during surgery, but relaxed.
What is aftercare like?
Following the procedure, ears will be covered in bandages for support. Some discomfort and itching will be present after the surgery but will not last long. Dr. Campos-Leon will give more details about aftercare following the surgery.
Most patients, children and adults, are ready to be discharged within hours of surgery, although in some cases it is recommended to stay overnight in the clinic until the effects of general anesthesia wear off. The ears may hurt a bit for the first few days, but it is easily relieved with medication prescribed by the surgeon. In a few days the bandage is changed for a lighter one similar to a hair band. It is important to follow the plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding the use of the bandage, especially at night. Any activity in which the ears can bend should be avoided during the first month. Most adults return to work 5 days after surgery; children may go back to school about 7 days post-op, as long as they are careful with physical activities.
Are there risks?
When otoplasty is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, any risks or complications become highly unlikely. However, as with any intervention, there is the potential for risks. A small percentage of patients may develop a hematoma, which will spontaneously dissolve or may require drainage. Occasionally, a cartilage infection can occur, which increases the scar tissue of the ear. This can be solved with antibiotics and in rare cases surgical drainage may be necessary. To avoid any type of risk, it is necessary to go to a specialist and follow the instructions that he or she provides.
Fortunately, out of all plastic surgery procedures, otoplasty requires one of the shortest recovery times, and most patients do not need to wait more than a week for the bandages to be removed. However, for the first five to seven days after otoplasty, it is essential that patients do not attempt to take a look at their ears. It is also not recommended to touch postoperative pressure bandages as it increases the risk of infection and may even affect the appearance of the results.
Once the patient is ready to have the dressing removed and the dressing has been unwrapped by the medical professional, the results will be visible immediately. Although a little residual inflammation can cause some minor distortions in the actual size of the ears, this will disappear after a while and you will see symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing ears as results.