Christopher Thomson F.R.A.C.S
Ear, Nose and Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery
Phone: +64 (03) 356 0274
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Patient Information on Otoplasty

Otoplasty is a popular operation designed to correct prominence of the external ear. About 5% of the population are considered to have prominent ears and in about two thirds of these there is a family history of prominent ears. Although this abnormality is considered a sign of good fortune by the Japanese, in western cultures it often causes ridicule. Relentless teasing may lead towards isolation or aggressiveness in the affected child and some studies indicate behaviour problems in up to 40% of children who were noted to present with ear deformities. Correction of prominent ears should therefore not be viewed as a purely cosmetic procedure but more as a valid approach to what can be a very distressing problem for children.

As the majority of growth of the ear is completed by the age of 5 or 6, this allows corrective surgery around this age without fear of significantly altering the growth potential of the ear. By the age of 5 or 6, children are able to understand the reasons for surgery and generally cope well with the process of an anaesthetic, the operation and the postoperative recovery period.

The most common deformities involve an underformed ante helical fold or a deep conchal bowl. Otoplasty may involve correction of either or both of these deformities and will allow the ear to rest in a more natural position, closer to the head.

In most cases, otoplasty is performed on both sides at the same time although some patients may only have deformity of one ear. Surgery typically takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours under a general anaesthetic. Following surgery a head bandage is applied and usually stays in place for 24-48 hours. Following bandage removal I encourage patients to wear an athletic elastic head band at night time to hold the ear in place for a further 3-4 weeks and to avoid any vigorous contact sport that may disrupt the results of surgery in the first 4-6 weeks.

Surgery is performed through an incision in the groove behind the ear. Typically an elipse of skin is excised and permanent invisible sutures are placed internally to recreate the natural fold in the side of the ear and to help pull the ear closer to the side of the head.

Like any surgery, complications can occur. These include bleeding (uncommon, although some bruising behind the ear is quite typical), or infection manifest by increasing pain and swelling of the ears in the first few days after surgery. The incision usually heals very well and is barely noticeable in most cases. However occasionally patients may develop a thickened (keloid) scar which may require further medical or surgical treatment. Generally patients and parents are very happy with the results of surgery but in about 5% of cases there may be a need to revise one or both sides.

Asymmetry is normal in nature and exists in every person although this is often not recognised. Due to variations in healing asymmetry may be present after any operation. This means that one ear may appear different to the other side. Although I always try to identify and minimise asymmetry in every case asymmetry and irregularities may be permanent after otoplasty surgery.

Generally surgery is not covered by health insurance.

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