Many children are born with large or protruding ears, which can make them targets for bullying as they reach school age. Otoplasty, a type of ear reshaping surgery that is often known as “ear pinning” is a permanent solution to protruding ears and several other common cosmetic ear deformities. Unlike most plastic surgeries, otoplasty is routinely performed on children as well as adults. The ears mature around the age of four or five and there are several benefits to undergoing the surgery at a young age. With that said, otoplasty can benefit both children and adults, putting an end to self-consciousness over protruding ears for good. Dr. Michael Schwartz understands the positive impact this procedure has on patients’ lives and is proud to offer otoplasty at Palm Beach Face in West Palm Beach, Florida.
What is Otoplasty?
Otoplasty is a cosmetic ear surgery that can improve the appearance of the ears. Although the surgery can address several types of aesthetic ear issues, the most common goal of the surgery is to bring protruding ears closer to the head. The procedure can also reduce the size of overly large ears or reshape ears with deformities such as “lop ear”. When the procedure is performed by a skilled plastic surgeon, the results typically look very natural and are normally permanent. Otoplasty can be used to improve the ear aesthetics of patients as young as four but is also routine for adults.
Reasons to Choose Otoplasty
When otoplasty is performed on young children, it is typically with the intent of preventing bullying before it begins. Children can be cruel to one another, particularly once they are in a formal school setting. By opting for otoplasty early, parents can sometimes reduce the potential psychological and emotional harm that relentless teasing can create.
Many adults who did not have the surgery as children did go through relentless torment and would like to boost their confidence by improving the appearance of their ears. Adult patients typically experience improved self-esteem and self-confidence following an otoplasty procedure. No longer embarrassed by their ears, patients often find they are more comfortable in social settings after surgery.
Ideal candidates for otoplasty are children and adults who are unhappy with their protruding, large, or misshapen ears. Candidates must be in good health, nonsmokers, and in the case of children, have fully mature ears. It is important that otoplasty patients maintain realistic expectations and understand the limitations and expected results of the procedure.
Otoplasty has many benefits, but it is important for each family or individual to consider the decision carefully. Children should be emotionally mature enough to handle the surgery and not compromise their healing during the recovery period. Dr. Schwartz will individually assess each patient to determine candidacy for the procedure, but the patient must also be confident in their desire to move forward.
The Otoplasty Consultation
Before the surgery can be scheduled, patients must meet with Dr. Schwartz at Palm Beach Face to discuss goals and candidacy. Parents who wish to have their child undergo the procedure must bring the prospective patient to this important meeting.
Dr. Schwartz goes over the patient’s medical history and will ask questions about the goals and expectations for the procedure. He will examine the patient’s ears and make a determination about candidacy, and make some suggestions for a custom treatment plan. Dr. Schwartz will also explain the procedure in detail and give patients information on recovery.
Once the goals and candidacy have been established, patients can ask any questions they’d like and address any concerns. This is a great opportunity to get to know Dr. Schwartz and his staff prior to making a decision. Especially for parents and their children, building trust is essential for a successful procedure.
There are several techniques that may be used during otoplasty surgery, depending on the patient’s individual needs. The procedure is performed in an outpatient surgery center, allowing patients to return home the same day of the surgery. Dr. Schwartz typically uses a combination of local anesthesia and sedation during the procedure for safety.
After the patient has received the anesthesia, Dr. Schwartz makes the incisions, usually located on the back of each ear. This reduces the amount of visible scarring by concealing the small scars in the natural creases of the ears. Once the incisions are made, Dr. Schwartz will reshape the ears based on the patient’s needs. In some cases, the ear cartilage may be sculpted and bent back toward the head, held in place with permanent stitches. In other cases, cartilage may need to be removed altogether. Regardless of the goals of the procedure, both ears will generally need to be addressed.
Otoplasty is fairly quick, and the procedure can be completed in 1-2 hours on average.
Immediately after surgery, patients are outfitted with a bandage around the ears. A few days later, this heavy-duty dressing is replaced with a lighter headband bandage. Patients can expect some swelling, numbness, redness, and sometimes aching or throbbing in the ear area. Any discomfort can be reduced and controlled using prescribed medications.
The initial recovery from otoplasty takes an average of a week. Children must be supervised closely and their activity restricted during this time. After 5-7 days, patients can go back to work or school safely. However, strenuous activities and contact sports must be postponed for up to two months following surgery.
Otoplasty Frequently Asked Questions
At what age can otoplasty be performed?
Otoplasty can be performed once the ears are fully grown, which typically occurs around the age of four. There are many benefits to performing the surgery at an early age. First, the opportunities for psychological harm from teasing and bullying are reduced. If the surgery is performed before a child enters school, bullying about the child’s ears may be eliminated altogether.
In addition to the psychological benefits, a child’s ear cartilage is softer and more malleable than an adult’s. This can make the surgery easier and more successful. Finally, when otoplasty is done at a young age, patients may not even remember the experience later in life.
Will I have scars after undergoing otoplasty?
Though the incisions made for otoplasty do result in scars, they are placed behind the ears to make them as discreet as possible. Unless someone is specifically looking for the scars, they should not be able to tell that you had an operation on your ears.
Will I experience any pain after undergoing otoplasty?
Some throbbing or aching of the ears may occur during the first few days, although many patients are surprised at how little discomfort there is during the recovery period. Dr. Schwartz will prescribe medication prior to the procedure that can be used to manage any discomfort following otoplasty.
When will I be able to exercise after my otoplasty procedure?
Light activity, such as slow walking, is encouraged soon after surgery to promote circulation and healing. However, moderate to vigorous exercise, strenuous activities, and contact sports may need to be postponed for about one to two months. This is especially important when considering otoplasty for children, since the recovery may conflict with team sports. Performing the procedure before a child begins these programs can be the best option.
When are the stitches removed after the otoplasty procedure?
If non-absorbable stitches are used, they will be removed in about one week after otoplasty. Absorbable sutures will dissolve on their own and patients will not need to have them removed.
What are the risks of otoplasty?
As with all types of surgery, there are potential risks associated with otoplasty, although they are relatively uncommon in healthy patients. Potential complications may include adverse anesthesia reactions, blood clots, excessive scarring, infection, mismatched or artificial-looking ears, and recurrence of the protrusion. Patients can reduce these risks by choosing a skilled surgeon and ensuring that they follow all of their surgeon’s instructions to prevent complications and promote proper healing.
Is otoplasty covered by insurance?
Otoplasty is sometimes covered by insurance. Patients should consult with their own insurance company. If the procedure is not covered, there may be other options for financing.
Does otoplasty have the potential to affect hearing?
Manipulation of the ear tissues during otoplasty is all on the outside of the ear. This procedure should not affect the patient’s hearing in any way. With that said, it is important to choose a skilled plastic surgeon to perform the surgery in order to help prevent complications.
Is otoplasty permanent?
The procedure is intended to be permanent, and is often extremely successful, with the results lasting a lifetime. However, with some techniques, there is a rare chance that patients may experience a reoccurrence of their ear protrusion. Dr. Schwartz will go over the techniques with you to explain how he minimizes this risk if you are concerned.
When will I see the results?
Once the bandages are off, you should see the results of otoplasty right away. However, residual swelling will affect the final look for a few months after the procedure until it subsides.
Is my child ready for otoplasty?
Only you and your family can make that decision, although Dr. Schwartz can provide some guidance. Choosing cosmetic surgery is extremely personal, especially when the decision involves a child, and the decision to pursue otoplasty should always rest with the patient and his or her parents.
Expert Otoplasty in West Palm Beach
Dr. Michael Schwartz is an expert facial plastic surgeon, board-certified in both facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat). His expertise in otoplasty, combined with his compassion for his patients allows him to customize each procedure for a natural-looking result. Dr. Schwartz has over 24 years of experience and has performed otoplasty on patients of all ages. To schedule an otoplasty consultation with Dr. Schwartz at Palm Beach Face in West Palm Beach, Florida, call 561-228-5888 today.