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All Ears

Dr Sawjin Tew

For children, ears that stick out can be a source of teasing and embarrassment, causing unhappiness. Ear reshaping, also known as otoplasty, is a simple procedure that is normally performed on children around age eight, but can also be performed on adults. 

Most often, otoplasty is used to correct ears that stick out too far from the head, but can also be used to correct ears that have failed to develop correctly. Ear reshaping surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic as a day surgery procedure.

Who is a candidate for ear reshaping surgery?

  • Patients who have ears that stick out 
  • Patients who have a very large conchal bowl (inside the ear) 
  • Patients who are not happy with the general shape of their ears 
  • Patients whose ears have a cauliflower appearance (usually through contact sports) 
  • How is the surgery done?

An otoplasty procedure usually takes between one to two hours to perform, though it may take longer if the procedure is complicated. The method used to correct the shape of the ear will depend on the specifics of the problem.

Although there are a number of different approaches which address this problem, the most common one involves the reshaping or removing of some of the cartilage. After opening the back of the ear, some of the cartilage will be removed or folded onto itself and stitch  it together. Since the work is done on the back of the ear, any scars are usually faint and can be hidden in the creases.

Recovery from surgery
For the first week after the surgery, patients wear a head bandage. Children will have to be surpervised for that period so the bandage does not come off too early. The bandage is applied firmly to minimise the chance of bleeding. Bleeding can lead to distortion of the shape of the ears if it is not recognised and controlled early. 

What are the risks of ear reshaping? 
The risks can be grouped into general risks associated with any surgery, such as bleeding, infection, scar problems, and risks specific to ear reshaping, such as asymmetry, especially if the patient starts off with ears of different sizes or shape, and relapse if the patient is not careful during the recovery period and lies on the ear incorrectly and cause the stitches to tear, just to name a few. Then there are anaesthetic risks to consider.

If the surgery is performed in a young child, fine adjustments may be necessary if the shape of the ear changes as the child grows, so if the child can wait until he/she is at least eight years old, the ear will be nearly adult size so there is less risk of the need for an adjustment later.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Is ear reshaping permanent?

This procedure offers dramatic, immediate results that will last a lifetime.

Cost: $1900 to $4500
Time in hospital: day surgery
Time off work: 1 to 2 weeks

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