Otoplasty is the term applied to surgical correction of protruding ears. In addition, this term refers to procedures that address an abnormality in the shape of one ear or correct an asymmetry between the two ears.
Otoplasty is unusual among plastic surgery procedures because it is usually performed on children rather than adults. By the age of five or six, the external ear has reached 95% of its adult size. Therefore, procedures performed after this age are less likely to require revision. However, Dr. Wall can perform corrective otoplasty on older individuals with equal success.
With respect to children and protruding ears, there are additional issues involved. When a youngster enters school, he or she may be exposed to the comments or teasing of classmates. Unfortunately, this may have a significant impact on a child's psychological development. Children exposed to such behavior have difficulties with social interactions. Often, they develop problems with sleeping, and may have a recurrence of bed-wetting. The otoplasty procedures are helpful in minimizing the emotional discomfort to which a child might be exposed.
Photographs will be taken from a number of vantage points to assist in explaining features unique to the ear's anatomy. During the evaluation, there will be an opportunity to discuss any concerns. It is important to have a clear idea of your hopes for the procedure. Communication is the key to insuring that you will be pleased with the results of the operation.
Ear surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Typically, general anesthesia is employed for all patients. There are two principal objectives for this surgery. First, the ears are re-positioned closer to the head. Second, the cartilage is sculpted to create the folds and contours that may not have developed adequately.
Dr. Wall places the incisions behind the ears, where they are not visible. Otoplasty usually leaves a faint scar behind the ear that will fade in time. A gauze bandage is worn for several days following surgery. This protects the ears and allows them to heal in their new "flat" position. The stitches are made of a material that dissolves, beneath the skin, in 4-6 weeks. (For this reason, the patient does not have to go through the discomfort of having the stitches removed.) Usually, there is some bruising or swelling which will resolve after about a week.
Most adults will be able to return to work after about five days; children can go back to school after about a week. Parents are instructed to make sure that younger children wear a light, cotton headband. This insures that the ears are not injured before they've had the opportunity to heal (e.g., while "roughhousing" at home or in the schoolyard). The child will wear the headband for approximately one month. Similarly, Dr. Wall encourages adults to wear the head band at nights for several weeks. This minimizes the possibility of inadvertently rubbing the ears while asleep. It takes about six weeks for the healing process to occur, and for the incisions to reach their final "strength".
The ear lobe is commonly injured in two ways. The first results from wearing heavy ear rings, which gradually stretch the original piercing. In most cases, the hole becomes elongated and the ear ring will fall out. In other instances, the hole will extend until it completely divides the ear lobe. Other patients suffer an acute tear when an ear ring is pulled by children or gets caught on clothing.
Dr. Wall can repair both an elongated opening ("slot ear lobe") or the completed divided lobe ("bifid ear lobe). The procedures require 45-60 minutes and are performed under local anesthesia in the office. The procedure is virtually painless. There are stitches that remain on the front surface of the lobe for 5 days. The stitches on the posterior aspect of the lobe are removed after 10-12 days (in order to allow complete healing).
The lobe can be pierced again in 6-8 weeks. However, the new hole cannot be placed in the exact site as the closure. The new piercing is moved a bit forward or backward to prevent re-injury to the original spot.
To view before and after images, please click here.