Ear surgery, known as otoplasty, is usually performed in our Washington, D.C. practice to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears or earlobes. In most cases, the surgery is performed on children between the ages of four and fourteen. Since the ears are almost fully grown by the age of four, there is no reason to wait until a child is older to have the procedure performed. Ear surgery on adults is also possible and there are generally no additional risks when the surgery is performed on an adult rather than a child. Working with the board certified plastic surgeons at West End Plastic Surgery, you can be assured of a safe and comfortable procedure with the outcome you desire.
Are You A Good Candidate for Ear Surgery?
The ideal candidate for ear correction surgery is a healthy child between the ages of four and fourteen or an adult in general good health who has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Ears that protrude too far from the head
- Ears that are too large and out of proportion to the head
- Overly large earlobes
Meeting With Your Plastic Surgeon
Prior to scheduling your ear correction surgery, you will meet at length with Dr. Ruff and the team at West End Plastic Surgery. At this meeting, Dr. Ruff, Dr. Ramineni or Dr. Cohen will evaluate the size and shape of your ears, or your child’s ears, and determine the best way to perform the procedure. It is generally felt that parents should not insist on the surgery until their child feels ready and wants the change in appearance. Children who want the surgery are generally more cooperative during the healing process and happier with the outcome.
During the initial consultation, your surgeon will ask you (or your child) how you would like your ears to look after the procedure. He will also thoroughly explain the procedure and its expected results and answer any questions you have. The type of anesthesia to be used and cost and payment information will also be discussed. You will be asked to provide a medical history.
Your plastic surgeon and the team at West End Plastic Surgery will:
- Review the various ear correction options with you
- Clearly discuss the potential risks of the procedure
- Outline in detail how the surgery is performed and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure
- Provide detailed cost and payment information
- Answer all your questions
You will be asked to provide:
- Details about your medical history
- A list of all medication you currently take including over the counter medications such as aspirin, vitamins, and herbal supplements
- Information regarding your tobacco and alcohol use
How The Procedure Is Performed
Your ear surgery will be performed in our state of the art surgical suite. In some cases with younger children, your surgeon may recommend a hospital stay of one night to better assist with the recovery process. Younger children are usually given general anesthesia so they can sleep throughout the entire procedure. Older children and adults generally receive a local anesthesia with sedation. With local anesthesia, you are awake for the procedure, but relaxed and comfortable.
When both ears are being corrected, the surgery usually takes between one to three hours to complete. Your doctor makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the cartilage. The cartilage is then molded and bent back toward the head and usually non-removable stitches are used to help maintain the new shape. In some cases, your doctor will remove a piece of the cartilage to provide a more natural looking fold for the ear.
After the surgery is complete, a bulky dressing is wrapped around your head to hold the ears in place; this dressing is worn for a few days to help enhance the molding of the cartilage and the healing of the incisions. Once the dressing is removed, a soft headband is worn at night for several weeks.
What To Expect After Your Surgery
|Stitches Removed||A Week After Surgery|
|Back to Work or School||Within a Week After Surgery|
|Activities That May Affect the Ears||Six Weeks After Surgery|
|Strenuous Activity||Four Weeks After Surgery|
|Fading of Scars||Several Months to One Year|
Immediately After Your Surgery
In most cases, ear correction surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and you go home shortly after the surgery. You may be sleepy from the anesthesia and the areas around your incisions will feel sore so you should have someone drive you home after the surgery. In the case of young children, a hospital stay of one night may be recommended. Most patients, children and adults alike, can be up and around a few hours after surgery as long as they have recovered from the anesthesia.
The First 24 to 48 Hours After Your Surgery
Your ears may throb or ache for a few days after the surgery. The pain is relatively mild and can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication. In addition, your ears may appear swollen for a few days after the surgery. The dressing placed over your ears must stay in place at all times for the first few days after surgery. Your discomfort level will improve rapidly after the first two days. There may be some bruising and swelling around the ears; these conditions are normal and will gradually disappear.
The First Two Weeks After Surgery
If your stitches are not the type that dissolves on their own, they will be removed within a week of your surgery. You must wear a soft headband over your ears when you are sleeping for the first four to six weeks after surgery. Children can return to school after a week or so, but need to be careful while on the playground or engaging in physical activities because it is important that the ears not get bumped for the first six weeks after surgery. Adults can return to work within five or six days of the surgery.
Resuming Your Normal Routine
Everyone heals at different rates and you are the best judge of when you are ready for certain activities, but the following are general guidelines:
- You can return to school or work within about a week of your surgery.
- You must be careful that the ears are not bent back for at least three weeks after surgery.
- Strenuous activity should be avoided for the first four weeks after surgery.
Things To Be Aware Of After Your Surgery
- The dressings placed over your ears must be worn at all times for the first few days after surgery. A soft headband must be worn over your ears whenever you sleep for the first four to six weeks after your surgery.
- Ear surgery leaves a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time to a nearly invisible white line.
- The scars caused by the incision should be protected from sunlight for at least a year after surgery.
- Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears to help with the symmetrical look of the ears.
- Don’t expect both ears to match exactly – perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears.
What Are Possible Side Effects or Risks?
All surgical procedures have some degree of risk; however, complications from ear correction surgery are infrequent and usually minor. During your initial consultation with Dr. Ruff, your individual risks will be assessed and discussed. As with any surgery, you can help reduce the risks by closely following the pre and post-surgery instructions provided to you.
Most likely risks include the following:
- Hematoma (blood collection)
How Long Will the Results of Your Ear Correction Surgery Last?
Ear correction surgery can reduce the size and prominence of one or both ears. The results of the surgery are permanent.
Questions You May Have
Will my insurance coverage pay for my ear correction surgery?
Insurance may cover the cost of an otoplasty if ear deformity is from birth, disease, or injury. However, in most cases, ear correction surgery is considered cosmetic surgery and, therefore, not covered by insurance. You are responsible for the full payment of the procedure. Cost and payment information will be fully discussed with you during your initial consultation. The staff at West End Plastic Surgery will work with you to determine if your procedure is covered by your insurance.