Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery, is a plastic surgery procedure designed to improve the appearance of the ears. Otoplasty may be performed to ‘pin back’ prominent ears, reduce overly large ears, reshape the ears or make them more symmetrical. Potential candidates for otoplasty include men and women who are in good health, have realistic expectations, and are looking to improve the appearance of the ears. It is often recommended that otoplasty be performed at an early age because younger ears have more pliable cartilage and because children can benefit psychologically from the result. Surgery can be performed once the ears have reached full size, which tends to occur around the age of five or six. Otoplasty can also be performed on adults, though adult patients should be aware that fully developed ears have firmer cartilage that does not provide the same molding capacity as with children.
Otoplasty usually requires about two hours of surgical time and may be performed in a surgeon’s office facility, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. The type of anesthesia used will depend upon the particular case. General anesthesia is commonly recommended for young children while local anesthesia and sedation are commonly used for older children and adults. The incision for otoplasty is typically located just behind the ear within a natural fold. Once the incision is made, cartilage and skin are removed until the desired effect is achieved. Permanent sutures may be used to set the ears back. In some cases, cartilage is not removed and sutures alone are used to hold the cartilage in place. Once the desired shape is achieved, the incisions are then closed.
Soft dressings are typically applied to the ears after surgery and these will be removed within a few days. Patients may experience some mild discomfort which can be controlled with prescription medication. A headband may need to be worn for about two weeks to help hold the ears in place. Some swelling, redness and numbness can also occur. Stitches are typically removed in about a week and most patients can return to work or school within about five to seven days. Some activities will need to be avoided for a month or longer.
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