Otoplasty is a surgery designed to adjust or correct the appearance of the external ears. The ear is primarily composed of cartilage, a firm but flexible type of tissue that allows the ear to maintain its shape but still bend. This external structure, called the pinna, is meant to help amplify what we hear by focusing sound to our eardrum. Although it has no appreciable effect on hearing, the otoplasty procedure can adjust a variety of problems that affect its appearance.
The most common technique performed is “pinning.” In many patients, the pinna is outwardly extended in an exaggerated manner, creating a “Dumbo” or “Mickey Mouse” effect. During an otoplasty procedure, the ears can be modified so that they hug the side of the head more closely. Other common reasons for otoplasty include remolding ears to correct atypical shapes such as “lop ear,” when the tip seems to fold downward and forward, or “shell ear,” when the curve in the outer rim is missing. Patients also undergo otoplasty for ear resizing, or correction of asymmetry. While the pinna has a role in assisting us in hearing, it is important to note that otoplasty is not meant to improve hearing ability.
PEDIATRIC PATIENTS (CHILDREN)
Otoplasty is typically performed on children between the ages of 6 and 14 years old. The young cartilage is more flexible and easier to mold in children. However, the surgery is generally not performed until the ears have fully grown, which typically occurs at 5-6 years of age. Children are often teased for abnormal appearing ears, which can create a strong, adverse psychological impact on their self-esteem. Otoplasty can correct for differences in the appearance of their ears, providing an effective option for children who are distressed by how they look.
For pediatric patients, general anesthesia is recommended since the procedure can last up to three hours. The surgery is generally done on an outpatient care basis, so patients are able to go home soon after the procedure. Children can return to normal and regular activities after seven days of rest.
While cartilage is more pliable in younger patients, otoplasty is performed regularly and effectively on adults as well. The surgery will be easier to perform the younger the patient is, however there is no additional risk for older patients. In adults, local anesthesia is the typical form of sedation. After the procedure, they should recover more quickly than children and can generally return to their daily routine after five days.
- Ear resizing
- Outwardly extended ears
- Atypical lobe shape