Ear Surgery

Am I a good candidate for ear surgery?

Patients who benefit from ear surgery include those who may have:

  • Protruding ear(s)- Majority of the cosmetic surgery performed on ears.
  • Large ear(s)
  • Abnormally shaped ear(s)

Ear surgery often is recommended for children as they near total ear development at age five or six. Correction of the ears prior to the child entering school helps eliminate potential psychological trauma from the teasing of classmates. Adults may also have their ears reshaped. As long as you are in good health, there is no upper age limit for this surgery.

Your Personal Consultation-- How will my plastic surgeon evaluate me for aesthetic ear surgery?

During the initial consultation, you may be asked to look in a mirror and point out exactly what you would like to see improved. This will help your plastic surgeon to understand your expectations and determine whether they can realistically be achieved.

You should come to the consultation prepared to discuss your medical history including previous surgeries, past and present medical conditions and current medications. It is important for you to provide complete information. High blood pressure, thyroid problems, diabetes, etc. should be reviewed as these medical conditions may increase some risks associated with ear surgery. Your plastic surgeon will want to know if you have allergies.

Pre-Operative

The goal of your plastic surgeon and the entire staff is to make your surgical experience as easy and comfortable for you as possible. If you are a smoker, it is recommended to stop smoking well in advance of surgery since smoking can impair the healing process. Aspirin and certain anti-inflammatory drugs can cause increased bleeding, so you should avoid taking these medications for a period of time before surgery. Your surgeon will provide you with additional preoperative instructions. Aesthetic ear surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis. If this is the case, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you for the next 24 hours.

The Day of Ear Surgery

Your ear surgery may be performed in a hospital, free-standing ambulatory facility or office-based surgical suite. Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. Frequently, local anesthesia and intravenous sedation are used for patients undergoing ear surgery, although general anesthesia may be desirable in some instances (especially young children). For your safety during the operation, various monitors are used to check your heart, blood pressure, pulse and the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood. When surgery is completed, you will be taken into a recovery area where you will continue to be closely monitored. You will be instructed to inform your caretaker if the dressings feel too tight. There is surprisingly little discomfort, however, from the surgery, especially if the ears are in a head dressing. You probably will be permitted to go home after a short period of observation, although some patients may stay overnight in the hospital or surgical facility.

How is Aesthetic Ear Surgery Performed

One of many surgical techniques may be suggested to improve the appearance of your ear(s). The particular technique that your plastic surgeon recommends will depend on the nature of the problem and many other factors including your desires. Because of individual factors, not everyone will achieve the same results from ear surgery. Your plastic surgeon will select the surgical technique that he or she feels will obtain the best outcome for you.

If your problem is protruding ears, the supporting tissue of the ears, called cartilage, is reshaped in order to position your ears closer to your head. This usually is accomplished through incisions placed behind the ears. Subsequent scars will be concealed in the natural skin crease. In some cases, especially in ears that need to be reduced in size or are protruding in the middle 1/3 of the ear, external incision of the front (outside surface) of the ear will be necessitated. Usually these are placed in areas where they will heal in a more inconspicuous manner. In ear reductions, skin as well as cartilage will most often need to be removed.

Understanding Risks of Ear Surgery

Fortunately, significant complications from aesthetic ear surgery are infrequent. Every year, many successful cosmetic ear surgeries are performed, without experiencing any major problem. The subject of risks and potential complications of surgery is best discussed on a personal basis between you and your surgeon, or with a staff member in your surgeon's office. The risks in most surgeries are similar. Some of the potential complications that may be discussed with you include hematoma (an accumulation of blood under the skin that may require removal), infection, changes in sensation, scarring, allergic reactions, damage to underlying structures, need for revisions, unsatisfactory results possibly necessitating additional procedures and medical risks. Sutures may be visible or may even break allowing for partial or complete recurrence of the protrusion and / or loss of the ear fold. Irregularities, sharp folds and other shape abnormalities may ensue. You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your plastic surgeon, both before and after your ear surgery.

Your Surgical Experience (Preoperative Preparation and Recovery)

Recovery from Ear Surgery

It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals. The first several days you should maintain head elevation as much as possible. Remember, you must not take aspirin or certain anti-inflammatory medications. Initially, pain is usually controlled with oral medication. Some patients find that mild swelling persist for many weeks. Bruising typically disappears within seven to ten days. Stitches are usually removed within a week of surgery.

After surgery, you may be instructed to wear gauze dressing or bandage for a few days or up to several weeks to ensure that your ears heal in their new, corrected position. Often a ski band to cover the ears is worn at night to prevent the ears from bending during sleep. Straining, bending and lifting should be avoided during the early postoperative period. In many instances, you will be able to resume most of your normal activities within ten days or less. Most people return to work at 7- 10 days.

Maintaining a Relationship with Your Plastic Surgeon after Ear Surgery

You will return to your plastic surgeon's office for follow-up care at prescribed intervals, at which time your progress will be evaluated. Please remember that the relationship with your plastic surgeon does not end when you leave the operating room. If you have questions or concerns during your recovery, or need additional information at a later time, you should contact your surgeon.