Otoplasty (ear surgery) is a cosmetic surgery that reforms misshapen ears to a normal appearance. There are a number of ear deformities that may be hereditary, or occur as a result from birth or a traumatic injury. The most common correction is among children to reshape ‘cup ears’ (ears that appears large and protruding) or ‘hidden ears’ (those that are underdeveloped and appear flattened to the skull). The surgery reshapes the ear cartilages with splints in the cases of younger children. Dr. Paul Critelli, board-certified plastic surgeon at UT Health East Texas Cosmetic Surgery Center, performs otoplasty surgeries for patients and strives to create natural, normal looking ears.
Torn Earlobe Care
Ear surgery may also involve a torn earlobe. This can occur with heavy earrings or through other trauma. The surgical repair of a torn earlobe is generally straightforward. The skin cleft between the two sides of the tear is removed, and using either a skin graft or donated cartilage, a new lobe is reconstructed. Sutures are used that are placed in both the front and back of the ear and will remain intact for several weeks. Several post-operative visits may be required so that the sutures can be removed in several phases to ensure the lobe is strong and aesthetically appealing.
About the Surgery
In the cases of protruding ears, the cartilages are reformed and sometimes supported by splints. Soft tissues may also be trimmed away. The incisions are made behind the ear to reveal the ear’s confines. The ears will be repositioned by tightening the skin and then sutured. In cases of hidden ears, when cartilages are not fully developed, manipulations may include reshaping the cartilages by pulling or repositioning while splints are placed as supports. Sometimes, tissue grafting is also necessary to render volume.
Otoplasties are performed with general anesthesia at UT Health Tyler. This is an outpatient surgery and takes 1-2 hours. The ear will be bandaged to keep the new position and shape in place. This also helps so that children cannot touch or play with their ears, which may complicate healing. Activities must be limited, especially within the first week. Scars will remain hidden behind the ears or within the natural folds if the incisions are made in front of the ear.
Schedule an appointment for a customized consultation with Dr. Critelli to determine the cost of your procedure. Generally, health insurance does not cover cosmetic procedures such as otoplasty. However, there are rare exemptions especially if trauma occurred or if a birth defect is in question.
The results following an otoplasty procedure are long lasting. However, just like any other cosmetic procedure, aging and gravity may cause increased laxity. This could eventually affect the position of the ears. For the most part, the improvements made with this surgery are still significant.
When to have Otoplasty?
On average, 5-6 year olds are ideal candidates for otoplasty as the ear will be already developed and the cartilage and tissues will still be soft, making it easy to reshape. This age is also recommended as it is a time before any schooling, which helps to avoid teasing.
One or Two Ears?
Usually, the condition is symmetrical to both ears. The final shape that the surgery will aim for will depend on the initial structure of the ear and how cartilages are placed. If the procedure is only for one ear, the shape will be patterned after the normally formed ear.