Otoplasty (Ear Surgery)

Otoplasty is an operation to repair prominent ears or “bat ears”. The cause of this common cosmetic problem remains unknown, though like many conditions, there is a hereditary element. This obviously doesn’t mean that a parent with bat ears will always pass it on, but there is a link.

As with most cosmetic surgery by a Plastic Surgeon, the aim of this operation is to return you to the best possible appearance, but leave no clues that an operation was performed. This can happen at any age, but the ideal age is around four to five years. At this age, the ear is a good size, and the cartilage strong enough to accept stitches. Furthermore, the child is old enough not to disturb the dressings, but young enough not to have undergone the taunting of friends.

Where do we cut?

I cut behind the ear, as this heals with a scar that is not seen. No cuts are placed on the visible side of the ear. Some skin is removed from the back of the ear as excess skin is made when the ear is brought closer to the head. The unfolded cartilage in the ear is also fixed with a series of see-through stitches. A dissolving skin stitch runs behind the ear, and a dressing is applied. What can I expect? This operation should have very little pain, so if there is a lot of pain, there is normally a problem, and you must return to be checked. The dressing that looks like a medical scrum cap and has specially moulded cotton-wool inside must not be disturbed for 2 weeks. This allows the undisturbed settling of the cartilage and healing of the skin despite sleeping on the ear at night. It also keeps out the probing little fingers, and helps settle the swelling. When I remove the dressing, you can wash hair safely, and nobody will notice that an operation was done, though the ears may no longer stick out. One ear is often worse than the other, and I attempt to get them exactly the same. I won’t, however, cut out a piece of skin on the front of the ear to equalise them if there is a difference in size. The difference is less visible than a scar on the outside of your ear. The results are life long, but care must always be taken to protect the ear from contact injuries that could occur with rugby scrumming, wrestling, and martial arts.

Who do I trust?

Ensure that your ears are fixed by a trained Plastic Surgeon. This is an art form, and a natural curve and invisible repair takes some skill to perfect and goes beyond “ear pinning”. The poor results of untrained operators are difficult to repair afterwards and still ensure a natural result. The first time with unscarred ears is always the best time and yields optimum results. And finally Remember that different flaws carry different stresses and degrees of importance to people. I have learned that a defect that may appear minor to others may cause much distress in you or your child. Though we should not make major changes based on the opinions of others, one cannot ignore the impact of continuous torment by peers. All considered, the child must ultimately make the decision, as he/she must be part of the healing team, and may benefit from my surgery.

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