Ear surgery (otoplasty)
For many people, having large ears or protruding ears can lead to ridicule or self consciousness. This is especially evident in children of school age who may be ridiculed by their peers, which can lead to psychological and self esteem problems. Ear surgery, or Otoplasty is a procedure in which the ears are pulled back closer to the scalp, and the cartilage of the ear is remodelled or shaped. The ear surgery can be performed at any age after the ears have reached (or nearly reached) their full size, which is around 5 to 6 years of age, however it is best if the child is old enough to understand the reasons for the operation.
Otoplasty can dramatically change a person's appearance simply by making protruding ears look more normal, or by giving a person folds of the ear cartilage where these were undeveloped. It can reshape the ears, reduce their size, make them more symmetrical, and/or position them closer to the head.
Ear surgery procedure
The operation can be performed under local, or general anaesthetic, and can be done either as a day stay case or with an overnight stay in hospital. Both these factors will depend on the age of the child and the requirements for post-operative pain relief. The procedure generally involves reforming the cartilages that shape the ears, to pull them in, and to reduce the protrusion. An incision is made at the back of the ear and a piece of cartilage is removed. New folds are created if necessary and the ear is sutured back into its' new position. As the incisions are made behind the ear, there is no visible scarring. Sutures and dressings may be used to keep the newly shaped cartilage in place, and a bandage is applied around the ears to protect them. Ear surgery takes approximately one and a half hours per ear and the length of the procedure depends on the technique used and the amount of correction required.
After your ear surgery
The surgeon will remove the bandages and dressings one to two weeks following the operation, and at this stage there may still be some swelling evident. This will subside over the following weeks.
Most normal activities can be resumed within a few weeks, but the ears should be protected for 6 weeks following surgery. It is also important to clean the ears, not to knock them, and not to bend them forward.
The long term outcome
The results of the otoplasty procedure are usually permanent, although there is always a small amount of "springing back" of the ears due to the elastic recoil of the ear cartilage.
Ear surgery risks
All surgery carries some risks, which include the possibility of post-operative infection, bleeding, excessive scarring and reaction to the anaesthetic. There are other risks that are more specific to this procedure, and it is important that you talk to your surgeon about the possible complications prior to surgery. Pre-existing medical conditions can alter the level of risk associated with any procedure, and it is important that you notify your surgeon and anaesthetist of any medical problems prior to surgery. It is also important to follow your surgeon's instructions both before, and after, surgery to ensure that these risks are minimised
Ear surgery costs
The components that determine the cost of ear surgery are the surgical theatre costs, hospital costs, anaesthetic fee and the surgeon's fee. Prices vary widely and otoplasties typically cost $8000, depending on the type of anaesthesia used.