Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is used to correct, reshape, or reconstruct different parts of the ear. Procedures in this category can range from ear pinning to address protruding ears, to the minor correction of a torn ear lobe caused by earrings/gauges, to total reconstruction of the ear.
Although this procedure is most often used to correct cosmetic imperfections, it is also performed to correct developmental abnormalities from birth.
When is ear surgery beneficial?
The most common reason patients seek otoplasty is to correct protuberant ears, or ears that stick out too far. Otoplasty may be performed on children as young as four or five years of age who have full ear development, or adults. A healthy individual with protruding or asymmetric ears, or earlobe injury, is a good candidate for this procedure.
How is ear surgery performed?
Intermountain Medical Group plastic surgeons perform otoplasty as an outpatient procedure. The type of anesthesia and the actual procedure differs depending on what is being corrected.
Ear pinning is used to correct protuberant ears, and involves a small incision in the crease behind the ear. Then, the ear is folded back and set closer to the skull. Permanent sutures are then placed to create the desired appearance.
When an earlobe is torn from piercing, gauging, or trauma, the earlobe can be reconstructed or repaired. Depending on the severity of the tear, the surgeon may be able to simply surgically close the hole. Patients are usually able to re-pierce the ears six months after this procedure. This surgery is often done under local anesthesia and in the office if the damage isn’t too severe.
If the earlobe is severely damaged, other measures may be taken to reconstruct the earlobe. Patients who have “gauged” ear lobes often require more extensive reconstruction. This may include flaps of earlobe tissue that is rearranged to reconstruct the earlobe.
What results can I expect?
Ear surgery offers almost immediate results in cases of protruding ears, visible when the dressings that support the new shape of the ear during initial phases of healing are removed after several days. With the ear permanently positioned closer to the head, surgical scars are either hidden behind the ear or well hidden within the natural creases of the ear. The results of more extensive ear surgery and reconstruction will appear in stages over time.
Most patients of ear surgery experience discoloration and bruising, aching or throbbing, numbness, swelling, and/or redness, but this usually goes away after seven to ten days. Pain or discomfort can be managed by medication.