St. Louis Ear Surgery Specialist
Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is usually done to set prominent ears closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears. It is also performed to correct birth defects or significant asymmetry of the ears. Most ear surgery is done on children between the ages of 4 and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule a child will have to endure. Ear surgery on adults is also possible, and no additional risks are generally associated with older patients. However, there is a higher risk in adults that the original deformity may reappear.
The goal of ear surgery is improvement, not perfection. No one has perfectly symmetrical ears so exact symmetry shouldn't be expected after surgery. However, the improvement will be significant and quickly apparent.
An otoplasty usually takes 2 to 3 hours, but complicated procedures may take longer. The exact procedure used will depend on the problem. Frequently, the surgeon makes a small incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage, which is then sculpted into the desired shape, size, or position. Non-removable stitches may be used to help maintain the correction. Occasionally, the surgeon removes a larger piece of cartilage to produce a more natural-looking fold. Another technique involves a similar incision in the back of the ear but no cartilage is removed; instead, stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear.
What To Expect After Ear Surgery
Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery. The ears may be sore and throb for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication. (Severe pain should be reported immediately to your surgeon.) The head is wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best molding and healing. Within a few days, the bulky bandages are replaced with a lighter head dressing similar to a headband. Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about a week.
Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or more. Most adults can go back to work about 5 days after surgery. Children can go back to school after 7 days or so but must be careful about playground activity. You may want to ask teachers to keep an eye on your child for a few weeks to make sure he or she doesn't engage in rough play.
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar behind the ear that will fade with time. Even when only one ear needs correction, surgery is usually performed on both ears for better balance and symmetry.
Length Of Surgery
2 to 3 hours
Young children: usually general. Older children or adults: general or local with sedation.
Temporary throbbing, aching, swelling, redness, numbness.
Infection of cartilage. Excessive scarring. Blood clot that may need to be drained. Mismatched or artificial-looking ears. Recurrence of the protrusion that requires repeat surgery.
Back to work or school: 5 to 7 days.
Strenuous activity, contact sports: 1 to 2 months.
Duration of Results: