Most ear surgery procedures in the past were performed to correct congenital problems such as “lop ear,” “cupped ear” and “shell ear,” to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears. When done for these problems, we recommend the surgery be done at about five years of age, when the ears are mature but before significant teasing occurs. However, these procedures are also appropriate for older children and adults who did not have access to them as a child.
Many of the same techniques are also applicable to problems in adults caused by aging or previous facelift. Some of these problems may include:
Some earlobe problems from aging can be treated with injections of either Juvéderm® Ultra™ or Vollure™. When a surgical procedure is needed, we treat older children and adults in the office as an outpatient using local anesthesia. Most people can resume normal activities immediately, as the sutures are usually hidden behind or on the back edge of the ear, except where we have repaired split or enlarged holes from pierced earrings.
When pinning the ears in a child, the surgery can happen as soon as age four. At this point, the ears are basically fully grown. This timeframe is nice for the child because he or she is not in school yet, so they can avoid any teasing that would otherwise come their way. For others, otoplasty can be performed, and be beneficial, at any age.
Your head will be wrapped in heavily padded bandages after surgery to help hold the ears in proper shape. After a few days, this will be removed. An elastic headband will be used at night for the remainder of the next two weeks simply to protect the ear. At 5-7 days any stitches will be removed. There will be some throbbing for a couple of days, but that can be managed with Tylenol or pain medication. Most people can return to most normal, non-strenuous activities by the next day and all activities in 4-5 days.
The changes made by Dr. Buchanan are immediate, although you won’t be able to see them because your head will be wrapped in bandages. Once those are removed there will be some residual swelling for several weeks to a month or two, but your ears will look dramatically different.
The scar is where the ear joins the head behind the ear or on the back of the ear itself so no one will ever see it. It also usually heals excellently and eventually essentially disappears. If the procedure involved your earlobe, such as mending a torn lobe, the scar is in a visible area but also fades to obscurity.
There are the same risks as with any surgery: bleeding, infection, poor incision healing, lack of full correction, and the like. Otherwise, this is a very low-risk procedure. The upside of a child not having to deal with protruding ears, or an adult finally not worrying about his or her ears, far outweighs the minimal risks involved with otoplasty.
Otoplasty may be covered by your insurance if the surgery is to correct a congenital problem, such as a misshapen ear or asymmetry. Simply setting the ears back, however, often is not covered. This varies with the case and the insurance company. We will work with your insurance company to merit the highest level of coverage.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons provides more general information.