Prominent or protruding ears can be a source of embarrassment and mental anguish for many people, especially children. In the past few decades, thousands of individuals have been physically as well as psychologically helped through a surgical procedure called otoplasty. Otoplasty, sometimes described as "pinning back" the ears, is designed to change the ear's shape and contour. It may be performed on anyone over the age of five or six years old, the age at which ear growth is almost complete. For those children with severely protruding ears, Dr. Kayem recommends that the surgery be performed at an early age, usually prior to starting school and before they are subjected to psychological stress related to the condition.
Prior to surgery, a medical history is taken in order to evaluate your general health. A careful examination is also conducted. Dr. Kayem and the patient or, in the case of a minor, a family member, will discuss how the ears should look and what can realistically be expected. Dr. Kayem will also discuss what type of anesthesia will be used, the procedure, possible risks and complications, and any other questions you may have. Photographs are usually taken before and after surgery. Preoperative instructions may include the elimination of certain drugs that contain aspirin for several weeks before the procedure in order to minimize the possibility of excess bleeding.
The Otoplasty Procedure
Otoplasty can be performed in a physician's office, an outpatient surgical facility, or a hospital, depending upon Dr. Kayem's and the patient's preference. It can be done under general anesthesia with the patient asleep or under local anesthesia in which the area is numbed and the patient remains awake. Premedication may be administered to relax the patient.
There are several surgical procedures which are designed to bring the ears closer to the head. The incision is made behind the ears so that scars are usually imperceptible. After reshaping the cartilage of the ears, the incisions are closed with small sutures and the ears are covered with bandages. The procedure can take up to two hours or more depending upon the extent of surgery.
After Otoplasty Surgery
Pain connected with the surgery is usually minimal, but can be controlled with pain pills. Bandages are removed within a few days, but may be replaced with a lighter head dressing. Wearing a tennis headband for a period of time to hold back the ears may also be recommended. Bruising around the area occurs but fades within a few weeks. Some temporary swelling occurs but this condition can be alleviated by keeping the head elevated when lying down. Patients may be advised to sleep on a soft pillow but not directly on the ears. Six to eight days after surgery, patients may be allowed to shampoo their hair. Scars from the incisions fade significantly in time and are, for the most part, inconspicuous because the incisions are made within the creases behind the ears. Although patients are usually up and around one or two days after surgery, the decision as to when normal activities can be resumed is determined by Dr. Kayem and is based on the extent of surgery and the patient's healing process.
Each year thousands of otoplasties are successfully performed. Occasionally, a second procedure is necessary if an ear begins to protrude again. Complications of infection are rare; however, there are certain inherent risks connected with every surgical procedure which should be thoroughly discussed with Dr. Kayem prior to surgery. Patients can minimize complications by carefully following directions given by the physician.