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|Otoplasty (Pinnaplasty) - Ear Reshaping|
Cosmetic surgery to reduce the prominence of the ears
Although it does not present a physical problem, large or protruding ears can be the cause of extreme self-consciousness in many adults and the motive behind ridicule and bullying at school. Fortunately, prominent ears can be corrected with an otoplasty, or pinnaplasty, cosmetic surgery procedure. The objective of otoplasty ear surgery is to set the ears closer to the head as well as reshape and, if necessary, remove cartilage.
Edward Talbot Ely, the American ear, nose and throat specialist, is known as the ‘father of aesthetic otoplasty’ after performing the first such operation in 1881 on a 12 year old boy who had been "ridiculed by his companions".
As one man in his 20’s described it, “Whenever I spoke to anyone, they were preoccupied by my ears. They couldn’t take their eyes off them. I could have been the new Einstein or Shakespeare, but all that seemed to register was my ears! Plastic surgery stopped all that. Now people see the real me, and are not distracted by my ears.”
What can otoplasty ear surgery do for you?
Children between 5 and 14 years of age are the typical candidates for otoplasty/pinnaplasty. Undergoing the procedure at this age is advantageous because the cartilage will be extremely soft, allowing it to be reshaped more easily, and the child will avoid much of the psychological harm of experiencing adolescence as a target of mockery. In contrast, adult ears contain cartilage that is not as easily moulded.
Once ear surgery has taken place, there will be some slight movement back away from the head, but then the results will be permanent. If you think you, or your child, may benefit from otoplasty ear surgery, your doctor and your plastic surgeon will be able to offer advice on your particular suitability.
Undergoing cosmetic ear surgery
The operation typically lasts around an hour. Children usually have a general anaesthetic, though adults can usually manage the procedure with local anaesthetic and sedation.
An incision will be made in the natural fold just behind the ear where it meets the head (leaving no visible scarring). Through this opening the surgeon will remove any excess cartilage and skin to achieve the desired outcome. If necessary, the surgeon will trim the cartilage to modify the shape of the ear. Once surgery is complete, the cartilage will be pinned back with permanent sutures to secure it in position.
After surgery, you should take 1-2 weeks off work and wear a head bandage for at least the first week. Sometimes during the initial stages, the ears feel that they are being pulled tight, but this feeling will go once the stiches have fully healed. “During the week or so with the bandage on, the sides of my head felt sore and swollen,” said one patient. “However, once the bandage and sutures were removed the discomfort virtually disappeared.”
During this initial phase, bending or pulling the ears could undo some of the work of the surgeon. It is wise, therefore, to sleep with the head in a raised position for the first few days after the operation, and take care not to accidentally bend the ears until the healing process is complete. All sports and physical activity should be avoided for at least 6 weeks to allow the permanent stitches to become fully settled. This can be difficult with children, so it may be worthwhile arranging surgery before a period where they can be away from the rough and tumble of the school playground.
The natural elasticity of the cartlidge can cause a slight ‘springing’ back away from the head after the bandage has been removed, but this is minimal in relation to the improvements made by the plastic surgery which will last a lifetime. Rare complications include infection, bleeding underneath the skin, numbness and a slight asymmetry. As with all cosmetic surgery, it is essential to follow the advice of your practitioner after the procedure. This will ensure that the outcome will be as successful as possible and reduce the risk of complications.
Who should carry out a otoplasty/pinnaplasty?
Ear surgery of this nature should only be performed by fully trained and qualified plastic or cosmetic surgeons and ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist surgeons that are registered with the Healthcare Commission (in the UK).
Prices for private cosmetic ear surgery can range from £1,500 to £2,500 depending on the extent of surgery required. If ear surgery is something that you are considering, you can discuss all of the issues mentioned here in greater depth during a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon.
Have your say!
If you've had experience with this procedure then why not leave a comment below and share your thoughts and advice with our readers.