Surgery For Prominent Ears – Otoplasty
The ears are almost fully grown by age 4. When ears are prominent, protruding more than normal from the head, affected people often become very self-conscious. Children and young adults begin concealing their ears. Boys may grow their hair long, and girls may stop pulling their hair back into pony tails. Otoplasty surgery is a great way to correct this problem and restore self-confidence.
What Causes Prominent Ears?
People who have prominent ears have cartilage that did not form correctly. A normal ear has a fold in the cartilage just in front of the rim of the ear (see the picture of the ear above). This is called the anti-helix. Most people with prominent ears have an anti-helix that did not form correctly. A second area, called the conchal bowl, may not form correctly and may contribute to a prominent ear. That’s the “bowl” of the ear near the ear canal. Excessive conchal bowl cartilage may make the ear stand out away from the head. Dr. Kunkel will identify the areas involved and discuss them with you during your consultation.
Dr. Kunkel performs otoplasty surgery in an outpatient surgery center. The patient is put to sleep under the direction of an anesthesiologist (general anesthesia). The surgery typically takes about 2½ hours to complete. An incision is placed on the back of the ear, exposing the cartilage. The cartilage is sculpted into a new shape and sutures are placed internally to help maintain definition of the anti-helix. The conchal bowl is also addressed as needed. Additional sutures may be placed to pull the ear closer to the scalp. The incision is closed with dissolving sutures. A plastic cup dressing is placed to protect the ears and is worn for a few days.
What Is Recovery Like?
Initially the ears appear swollen and purplish. The skin may be numb. Swelling and bruising become less noticeable to others after about 3 or 4 weeks. Dr. Kunkel typically has patients wear a headband 23 hours a day for the first month. After that the headband may be worn at night only for another few weeks. Sporting activities should be avoided during the first month after surgery, particularly contact sports like basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football, and volleyball. People involved in dance may become active after about two weeks, but the ears will be noticeably swollen during that time. Patients begin shampooing their hair on the second or third day after surgery.
One of the most fun things about this surgery is seeing patients come to the office with their hair pulled back within a week or two after the surgery. Confidence often soars after otoplasty surgery, and many patients quickly begin wearing the hairstyles that they have wanted to wear. Dr. Kunkel makes a point of telling his adolescent patients to thank their parents for providing this surgery for them. Otoplasty surgery may be a profoundly rewarding experience!
Risks Of Otoplasty Surgery
Every surgical procedure includes risks. All operations, from hernia repairs to rhinoplasty to otoplasty surgery include risks of infection, bleeding, blood clots, and poor healing. Issues that are more unique to otoplasty surgery include differences in shape between the two ears, accumulation of blood under the skin that could require drainage, loss of the new shape of the ear due to a suture breaking, and long-term numbness of an ear.