Plastic surgery for discarded ears
Prominent ears (aka bat ear or wing nut ear) pose a problem for all age groups. They are usually a genetic issue, and most patients who approach a plastic surgeon to have them dealt with are school-age children, teenagers, and adults between 20-30 years of age.
PROMINENT EARS IN YOUNG CHILDREN
Prominent ears can pose a particular problem for children, and even have an impact on their psychological well-being. This is because school-age children who suffer from this problem tend to be the butt of their peers’ jokes. Young children are more impulsive, and as such they are not as discreet about the judgments they make.
Therefore, it is a very frequent phenomenon for such a child to be subjected to any amount of mockery concerning their ears, which may cause them substantial psychological issues. When the patient is subjected to such circumstances, it is best for them to undertake the otoplasty procedure at an early age.
Otoplasty can be performed from the age of 5 upwards, as by this point the ears will have already completed 80% of their development. This occurs because during childhood the ears develop faster in terms of their proportions than the rest of the body. After the age of 5, the ears only undergo very small changes, and as such the results of otoplasty are considered permanent.
PROMINENT EARS IN TEENAGERS
Another age group which frequently generates patients who wish to correct their prominent ears is that which includes all young adults, particularly teenagers. This age group is subject to a greater necessity for the young man or woman to appear attractive. Corrective otoplasty will help improve their relations with the opposite sex as well as their self-esteem. Of course, in such cases, the main cause of low self-esteem is childhood trauma.
THE OTOPLASTY PROCEDURE
For young adults, the corrective procedure for prominent ears is mainly performed by local anaesthesia, and does not require hospitalization. For younger children, however, due to the difficulty of persuading a child to sit still during the procedure, a more extensive type of anaesthesia is usually required.
The operation aims to alter the structure of the ear into a new position. The type of problem is not uniform for all cases of prominent ears. Depending on the shape the ear takes, the plastic surgeon will have to appropriately plan out the actions he or she must take in order to bring the ear to the desired position.
The shape of the ear is defined by it skeleton. The skeleton consists of cartilage, overlaid with skin. Cartilage has elastic properties; i.e. when moved or pulled it will always return to its original position. For this reason, the operation aims to permanently alter the shape of the cartilaginous structure. This is performed by making incisions into the cartilage, and holding it into a new position through the use of special sutures. Once the organism has concluded the healing process, the structure will adhere permanently to its new position.
The procedure of the operation tends to last between one and one-and-a-half hour. Once it is concluded, the patient can immediately return home, provided the procedure was done under local anaesthesia; in the case of general anaesthesia, few hours of staying at the hospital are needed due to safety reasons.
All requisite incisions are only performed on the back of the ear, and are practically invisible.
The sensation of pain following this procedure can vary from patient to patient. Some experience no pain whatsoever; others do, but are able to deal with it fairly well through the use of painkillers.
Many male and female patients request to have their ears reduced. In most cases this is unnecessary, as their ears are regularly sized. Prominent ears simply give the illusion of being larger. When these are shifted to a more natural position, they will appear normal-sized.
However, there are cases wherein the ears are genuinely larger than is normal. In such cases, the plastic surgeon must remove a section of the cartilage. The incisions are performed upon the ears’ natural grooves, so as to be better concealed. However, when an ear reduction is being performed, it is necessary to make some incisions to the outward part of the ear, whereas in standard otoplasty the incisions are made exclusively to the back of the ear and as such are not visible.
A return to work can in theory be made on the very next day, but practically speaking this depends on when the patient feels they are presentable. We mention this because there is certain to be some light swelling and browsing around the ears of the next few days after the operation. Patients in a position to cover their ears, e.g. using long hair, a hat, etc., can in most cases return to work on the day after the operation. Otherwise, if the ears cannot be somehow covered and provided one does not wish to appear in public with edema around their ears, up to 10 days may pass before the patient feels presentable.
The degree of satisfaction following on otoplasty operation is quite high, and most patients are surprised to find that such a relatively simple procedure can correct a malformation which has irritated them since their childhood. Many patients will wonder why they had not undergone the procedure much earlier.