A Cosmetic Surgery for Ears (Otoplasty)
The anatomy of the protruding ear
Our ears take on their shape during gestation (when we are in our mother’s womb) and continue to grow throughout our early childhood. At about the age of 6, our ears reach a size that is about 80% of what they will be as adults. During our development, an extremely complex system of signals triggers the growth of the ear as well as determines the shape of the ear. The appearance of the ear may take on different degrees of malformation, ranging from the most apparent to minimal. The most apparent form of ear malformation is what is called microtia—whereby the ear fails to form. The complex formation of the ear relies on the formation of specific creases and folds in order for the ear to take on a normal appearance. The most common form of ear malformations is the protruding ear. The protruding is a result of two etiologies: the ear fails to form a specific fold referred to as the antihelical fold and an excess of cartilage which forms the ‘bowl’ of the ear called conchal excess.
At what age can an ear be setback?
Typically, ears can be setback any time after the age of 6 years. At the age of six, the ear has nearly reached its adult size. It is also the age before children enter school and a possible appropriate time for kids to avoid the potential social stigma of protruding ears.
How is an Otoplasty procedure performed?
The procedure can be performed under either local anesthesia in the majority of adult cases or general anesthesia in the case of children. An incision is made in the crease behind the ear in order to hide the scar. This allows for the cartilage to be exposed. The cartilage is then re-shaped through the use of permanent sutures. Careful planning and marking are made to recreate the fold in the proper anatomic location. Dr. Bared uses sutures in order to create a natural-appearing outcome and does not cut the cartilage. Cartilage-cutting techniques may result in the appearance of sharp edges which may be avoided with a suture technique. Lastly, if the ‘bowl’ of the ear is also found to be in excess this area is also made smaller.
Recovery from an Otoplasty procedure
The recovery from an ear-pinning surgery lasts about one week. For the first several days you will need to wear a gauze wrapping to protect the ear and to provide pressure. After this wrapping is removed, you will then need to wear a sports-type headband. In one week, you can then wear the sport-type headband only at night while sleeping. The headband should be worn at night while sleeping for at least 4 weeks after surgery. You will need to avoid vigorous exercise and physical activity for around 3 weeks. The results from an otoplasty are almost immediate. It is one of the few procedures in facial plastic surgery that provides such immediate results.