It may have been an issue as you were growing up – getting teased at school and always feeling like you had to cover them up. Protruding ears appear early on, but for some women, surgery may not have been option until now. Whether you’re at the gym or at work, simply putting your hair up in a ponytail may feel embarrassing.
Otoplasty is a common procedure that can be performed to reduce protrusion. According to Dr. Ali Adibfar, a Toronto-based cosmetic plastic surgeon, the ideal candidate for this procedure is someone who is affected by the physical appearance of their ears to the point where they’re trying to cover them up all the time.
There are two types of procedures that can be done, depending on what the concern is. While some women experience ears that deviate from the head and stick out, others may have improper fold of the cartilage in the front of the ears, causing them to look quite large. According to Dr. Adibfar, otoplasty is a simple procedure, and is most commonly done under conscious sedation involving an intravenous sedative and local freezing, which will block pain and keep you relaxed.
For those whose ears are sticking outward, a small crescent incision is made in the back of the ear. If the ear cartilage is too big, part of it is shaved off or removed. The cartilage is then stitched up, followed by stitching the skin.
If the ears are too large and lack a proper fold in the front, an incision is created in that area, and the cartilage is then weakened with a surgical file so it can bend. The surgeon then forms the proper shape, and the cartilage is stitched with permanent loop stitches in the back. That is followed by the suturing of the skin with meltable stitches.
After either procedure, an antibiotic ointment will need to be applied to the incision area. Cotton puffs are packed around the ear to help it keep its shape, and the head is then wrapped. The patient can go home the same day. Dr. Adibfar mentioned that although minimal, the patient may feel soreness, swelling and inflammation of the ear. Numbness may be experienced, but will gradually subside as nerve endings grow back. After 24 hours, the head wrap can be removed and the patient can shower. Dr. Adibfar recommends that for the first one to two weeks a tennis headband be worn around the ears, especially at night, in order to avoid possibly pulling the ears.
“While you’re asleep at night, you don’t want to be pulling your ear like that. The headband is there to remind you that the ears are pushed back against the skull. Pulling will break those permanent sutures. Once after two weeks the collagen process has started, there’s not as much need for those permanent sutures there because the collagen formation on those sutures holds the ears together,” said Dr. Adibfar.
There are some precautions that need to be taken after the surgery. Dr. Adibfar doesn’t recommend wearing headphones for the first two weeks since any manipulation of the ear can cause stitches to loosen up. Wearing glasses and lying on the ear should also be refrained. Within a week, the patient may return to work and resume moderate physical activity such as jogging. More extreme exercises, including swimming, should not be performed until at least three to four weeks later, explained Dr. Adibfar.
Though otoplasty is considered a quick and simple procedure, there is the possibility of side effects, such as infection in the head and neck due to bacteria travelling from the skin through the incision area, but, according to Dr. Adibfar, this is rare. Another risk associated with otoplasty is hematoma, which involves symptoms such as pain and swelling, and is caused by damage to a blood vessel, resulting in the leakage and collection of blood around tissues. If there’s a hematoma, the patient would go back to the surgeon’s office and have it drained, followed by the application of a compression device.Minor asymmetry can also be an outcome of the surgery, but Dr. Adibfar explained that asymmetry is normal for anyone to have even before surgery.
“There’s always going to be asymmetry between left and right skull, and the ears are based on the skull bone. So if the skulls are off, the ears are going to be off,” said Dr. Adibfar.
According to Dr. Adibfar, it will take about a month for the ears to fully heal and get settled in. The results stay permanently, so your ears can forever be embraced and not hidden by all that hair.
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