Cosmetic surgery of the ear involves changing the shape of the cartilage in order to make them less prominent. The surgery can be extremely rewarding for the patient as the social pressures associated with being born with large ears are corrected.
The ideal candidate for an otoplasty is at least at the age when the ear is nearly the size of an adult ear. This is typically around 8 years old. At this age, correcting the ear before excessive teasing occurs at school can be very helpful for the child. There is no upper age limit for otoplasty. The patient may require one or both ears to be corrected.
Individuals with prominent ears lack a definitive fold, the antihelical fold, that is normally seen just inside the outer rim of the ear. The lack of this fold makes the ear appear to extend away from the side of the head more than a normal distance. This “normal” distance is usually the width of an adult index finger. In other words, if the space behind the ear between the side of the head and the rim of the ear is wider than an adult index finger, than the ear may be improved through an Otoplasty.
The surgery is usually done under IV sedation or can be done under general anesthesia. An incision is made behind the ear that removes an ellipse of skin. A series of permanent or at least long lasting dissolving stitches are placed strategically through the cartilage and tied, to create a fold that moves the ear closer to the head. These are commonly called Mustarde sutures.
In a child, it is helpful for a dressing to be placed around the head after surgery so that he or she does not accidentally manipulate the ears. Adults usually don’t require this precaution. The ears will be swollen and tender for less than a week. Oral pain medication will help alleviate any pain. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed as well. If the sutures used to close the skin need to be removed (often dissolvable ones are placed) these are taken out at approximately one week.
Otoplasty, ear pinning surgery, can have a profoundly beneficial effect on a child or adult with prominent ears. Making the ears less prominent can relieve the person of negative commentary or ridicule and improve self-esteem and confidence.
Otoplasty: the experience of 100 consecutive patients. Yugueros P, Friedland JA. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Sep 15;108(4):1045-51; discussion 1052-3.
Modification of the Mustardé otoplasty technique using temporary contouring sutures. Hilger P, Khosh MM, Nishioka G, Larrabee WF. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1997 Nov;100(6):1585-6.