Ear Surgery (Otoplasty) Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What shape, size, surface texturing, incision site and placement site are recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with this procedure and how are they handled?
1. Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
Individuals who consider ear surgery include:
- Those born with overly large or small ears,
- Those with ears disproportionate to your head or oddly placed,
- Those with ears that stick out prominently,
- Those who have suffered an injury that has negatively impacted the shape or positioning of your ears.
A good candidate has ears that have reached their full size (which usually happens around age six).
2. Where and how will you perform my procedure?
In children, the cartilage is soft enough that splints can be used for contouring during surgery. This is typically done under general anesthesia in a surgicenter. Adults, however, have harder cartilage, and the procedure must be carried out by removing or repositioning cartilage after making a small incision in the ear. Depending on your anatomy and desired changes, Dr. Hsu may make an incision hidden inside or behind the ear. Extra cartilage or soft tissue that makes the ear "stick out" too much can be removed. If normal folds are missing from the ear, they can be re-created by shaping the cartilage with permanent sutures or scraping the cartilage to contour it. Sometimes a combination of techniques is needed to get the desired result.
3. What shape, size, surface texturing, incision site and placement site are recommended for me?
The location of your incisions will depend largely on what changes you wish to make. However, you can expect the incisions to be made in inconspicuous locations, either in the back of your ear where it connects to the head, or within the inner folds of your ear.
4. How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
Following the procedure, you will have dressings in the shape of "ear muffs" wrapped around your ears. Soon after the procedure, Dr. Hsu will remove this heavier bandage to inspect the ears, and will likely replace it with a lighter dressing. It’s essential to keep this dressing in place unless instructed to do otherwise. Dr. Hsu may also prescribe medication to take during your recovery period. Typically, you will be released from the surgicenter the same day as your procedure, but you must have someone drive you to and from the surgery. You should have a responsible adult with you for at least the first twenty-four hours during your recovery period. For the first week of recovery, it’s important that you rest frequently, though you should still move around occasionally to keep blood flowing. To minimize discomfort, it’s recommended that you recline but keep your head elevated. Do not rest your head on the operated ear, as this can result in throbbing and general discomfort. Dr. Hsu will let you know when any dressing can be removed, and you may be asked to apply antibiotic ointment to the ears or perform other wound care treatment at home.
Approximately one week after your procedure, you will return to our clinic and Dr. Hsu may remove stitches at this time, though absorbable stitches are often used, which do not require removal. The time frame for recovery is unique for every patient, but you can expect to return to work and any light activity after a week. In two weeks, your final results will be visible, though small changes to the ears can occur for up to twelve months.
5. What are the risks and complications associated with this procedure and how are they handled?
There are few risks associated with ear surgery, but as with any invasive surgery, there’s always a potential for complications. The chances of infection post-otoplasty (post-ear surgery) are rare and most doctors prescribe antibiotics to be started immediately after the operation in order keep infection at bay. However, if any infection does set in, it has to be treated immediately with additional antibiotics in order to prevent damage to the ear cartilage. Bleeding during ear surgery is normally minimal. Some patients experience the formation of blood clots during the first 48 hours. The excess blood should be quickly removed with a needle.
The ear is made up of cartilage that has a lot of elasticity. Therefore, over time, some patients may see that the effects of the surgery are slowly being reversed as the ears shift back to their natural shape. A revision surgery is possible. Since the ears are pinned back or the shape is modified and held in place with the help of sutures, sometimes these sutures may pop or loosen up causing the ear to go back to their normal position. This risk can be lessened by avoiding contact sports and vigorous physical activity for some time post-otoplasty. The incision during Otoplasty is normally done in the natural crease behind the ear. If the suturing is not properly done, there could be some scarring. However, an experienced surgeon like Dr. Hsu will be able to minimize the risk of scarring due to his sheer skill.