The operation is commonly done on children over age 4. Ears are almost fully grown by age 4, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure. Such teasing doesn’t usually start until children enter primary school, and develop a concept of peer group normality. Ear surgery on adults is also performed and there are generally no additional risks associated with ear surgery on an older patient.
When ear surgery is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon complications are infrequent and usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear, this may may dissolve naturally with time, or may need to be drawn out with a needle. Occasionally, patients develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area. Assymmetry or difference between the two sides, may occasionally be noticeable, and might rarely need further surgery. Numbness of parts of the ear may also occur.
Your surgeon recommends that parents stay alert to their child’s feelings about protruding ears; don’t insist on the surgery until your child wants the change. Children who feel uncomfortable about their ears and want the surgery are generally more cooperative during the process and happier with the outcome.
In the initial meeting, your surgeon will evaluate your child’s condition, or yours if you are considering surgery for yourself, and explain the most effective technique. He will also give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery.
Ear surgery is usually performed as a day procedure in a hospital or day surgery centre or in the operating theatre at our rooms.
If your child is young your surgeon will recommend general anaesthesia, so the child will sleep through the operation. For older children or adults , your surgeon will usually prefer to use local anaesthesia, combined with a sedative, so you or your child will be awake but relaxed and pain free.
Ear surgery usually takes about one to two hours. An incision is made in the crease behind each ear. Through this approach, the cartilage is scored in such a way as to bend it permanently backward towards the head.
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance.
Adults and children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery. The patient’s head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to promote the best shape and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by medication.
Within a week, the bulky bandages will be removed. A headband or beanie worn at night will help you or your child sleep undisturbed, even if you roll onto one ear. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s directions for wearing this headband at night.
Stitches are usually removed in 10 days or so. Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for a month or so. Most adults can go back to work about five days after surgery. Children can go back to school once the dressings are removed, if they’re careful about playground activity. Children’s surgery is usually scheduled for the school holidays.
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. But keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. Don’t expect both ears to match perfectly – perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations with your surgeon before the operation, chances are, you’ll be very pleased with the result.
If you have further questions, write them down and ask your surgeon and his friendly staff at your consultation.