Otoplasty can correct prominent ears. It is a procedure in which the ears are set back and any asymmetry can be addressed.
There are two main factors contributing to prominent ears: an excess of cartilage in the bowl of the ear (near the ear canal – the conchal bowl); and an unfolding of the ear folds (antihelical fold). It is also common for the ears to be unequally involved.
The upper, middle and lower ear is carefully assessed and measured. The relative contributions of the two causes are assessed to allow accurate surgical planning.
Excess cartilage is either sutured closer to the scalp or a small section cut out. The fold is restored to nearly ninety degrees by either using sutures or a cartilage scraping (scoring) technique. Each part of the ear is corrected.
Surgery is performed through an incision along the back of the ear, close to the scalp, ensuring scars are well hidden.
Timing of the surgery is important. It can be performed at any age from children to adults, but usually after five years of age, or in the early school years. Children need to be old enough for ear growth to be complete, the cartilage strong enough to hold sutures and the child mature enough to be co-operative with the care after surgery.
Surgery can be performed under general anaesthetic (recommended for children), twilight sedation or local anaesthetic. Even with general anaesthetic, local anaesthetic is used to decrease post surgery discomfort and limit bruising.
The ears are then carefully bandaged and packed to maintain the folds, contours and position. This head bandage is worn for the first week. Scratching must be avoided as this may alter the position of the ear or even fold it over. Should the bandage fall off, it must be replaced by Dr Kippen to carefully repack and position the ear. Changes in the ear position may affect the final outcome. A headband is then worn at night for six weeks to prevent the ears from folding over during sleep.
Otoplasty is generally considered to be not very painful. The pain or discomfort should be about equal on both sides. If one side is much more painful, please advise Dr Kippen as this may suggest a problem, which will need to be checked.
Bruising and swelling are common, but variable between people and even side to side. Bleeding, poor scarring, asymmetry, infection and contour irregularities are rare. Recurrence of ear prominence is possible with any of the surgical techniques used and may require further surgery.
This information is meant to provide an introduction to ear surgery. At the time of consultation, Dr Kippen will give a far more comprehensive explanation of the procedure and likely recovery. He will give you brochures to read as well as showing before and after photographs.
You should read the information presented here in conjunction with the information contained on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the website.