Ear surgery, or Otoplasty (Pinnaplasty or correction of Bat Ears) is usually done to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears.
The operation can be performed on children between the ages of four and 14. Ear surgery for adults is also performed, and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.
All surgery carries some uncertainty and risk
When ear surgery is performed by a suitably qualified, experienced surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and there are specific complications associated with this procedure.
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.
Most surgeons recommend that parents stay alert to their child's feelings about protruding ears; do not insist on the surgery until your child wants the change. Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the surgery are generally more cooperative during the process and happier with the outcome.
During the initial meeting an evaluation of your child's condition, or yours if you are considering surgery for yourself will be made, and recommendations will be made regarding the most effective technique. Specific instructions will be given on how to prepare for surgery.
Where will the surgery be performed?
Ear surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital. Occasionally, it may be recommend that the procedure be done as an inpatient procedure, in which case you can plan to stay overnight in the hospital.
Type of anaesthesia
If your child is young, your surgeon may recommend general anaesthesia, so the child will sleep through the operation. For older children or adults, the surgeon may prefer to use local anaesthesia, sometimes combined with a sedative, so you or you will be awake but relaxed.
Ear surgery usually takes about two hours, although complicated procedures may take longer. The technique will depend on the problem.
Utilising one of the more common techniques, a small incision is placed in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. The cartilage is sculpted and bent back toward the head. Non-removable stitches may be used to help maintain the new shape. Occasionally, the surgeon will remove a piece of cartilage to provide a more natural-looking fold when the surgery is complete.
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a scar in the back of the ear that will usually fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance.
Returning to normal
Most people are usually up and about within a few hours of surgery, although you may prefer to stay overnight in the hospital until all the effects of general anaesthesia wear off.
The patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best moulding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication.
After a week, the bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head dressing similar to a headband, usually to be worn at night.
Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about a week.
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 seven days after surgery.
The final outcome
Most patients, young and old alike, are very happy with the results of ear surgery. But bear in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. Do not expect both ears to match perfectly - perfect symmetry is both unlikely