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The Face: Ear

Otoplasty

Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually done to set prominent or “bat” ears back closer to the face or to reduce the size of large ears.

For the most part, the operation is usually done for children after the age of five as the ears are almost fully grown by then. Why so young? Well, the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure as he or she starts schooling. Ear surgery on adults is also common, and the results are very satisfying.

When a qualified, experienced surgeon performs ear surgery, complications are infrequent and usually minor.

Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are some risks associated with surgery, as well as specific complications associated with this procedure.

A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot in the ear. It may dissolve naturally or can be drawn out with a needle.

Occasionally, patients may develop an infection in the cartilage which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.

Ear surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital or in a doctor's office-based surgical facility. Your surgeon may at times recommend that the procedure be done as an in-patient procedure, in which case you can plan on staying overnight at the hospital.

Ear surgery usually takes about two hours for both sides, although complicated cases may take longer. The technique used will depend on the problem. A dressing wrapped around the head is usually required and may be worn for a week.

With one of the more common techniques, the surgeon makes a small elliptical cut in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. He will then sculpt and shape the cartilage and bend it back toward the head. Stitches will be used to anchor the cartilage and help maintain the new shape.

In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time.

The patient's head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days but this can be relieved by medication.

After a week, a lighter head dressing similar to a headband will replace the bulky bandages. Be sure to follow your surgeon's directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night.

Most patients are thrilled with the results of ear surgery.

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