Otoplasty surgery is a surgical procedure that aims to eliminate or correct the abnormal contour of the ears, i.e., the correction of prominent or “hip” ears, often popularly known as “flap ears”. However, other conditions may also be treated using otoplasty techniques, such as sequelae of trauma, congenital absence of the ears or other types of abnormalities.
These problems can be uni or bilateral and may even involve both ears differently. In either case, the main consequence is psycho-social, as these ear anomalies do not affect hearing. For this reason, insurance companies do not cover these situations in most cases.
Often, this aesthetic problem causes self-esteem problems and can generate anxiety, interfere in the relationship with other people, both in childhood and in adults, and surgery should be considered in these cases.
Indications of otoplasty
Interventions on the ears are performed to reduce defects, correct disparities in the shape, size and angulation of the prominent ears. Otoplasty is also indicated in the correction of malformed ears from birth or suffering from deformities after an injury. This type of procedure can have as its purpose two fundamental objectives, including: to repair, when it tries to correct a defect, and simultaneously to have an aesthetic objective, aiming at the harmony of the shape, volume and position of the ear.
The degree of deformity of the ears in flap may range from the mildest to the most severe degree, however the surgical indication is based on the dissatisfaction that the patient presents. There are patients with small changes and who feel very uncomfortable with the fact. The degrees are based on the amount of anatomical changes of the ear under discussion. There is also another situation that makes the patient quite uncomfortable, which is the macrotia, that is, the patient has ears whose size is quite above normal (very large ears).
Anyone can undergo surgery as long as they meet the conditions. Even people with chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, may be subjected to the operation and should naturally have their chronic disease controlled before undergoing surgery.
What is the minimum age in otoplasty?
The minimum age for performing this surgery is 4 years of age. The child’s ear at this age has already reached the proportions of the adult and it will already make sense to perform a surgical intervention. All patients from this age whether male or female may undergo surgery. That is, there is no maximum age and patients can be operated on at any time throughout their lives.
What are the advantages of otoplasty?
The advantages of otoplasty are several, i.e.:
- Recovery of self-esteem – The vast majority of people who have prominent ears have low self-esteem, ultimately affecting their well-being and quality of life. This surgery allows the patient to regain self-esteem, making him happier and at peace with himself;
- Rapid recovery after surgery – Recovery from otoplasty is relatively faster when compared to other surgeries. The operated area tends to improve significantly, within the first two weeks after surgery.
- Absence of visible scars – The stitches are given behind the ear and the incision is hidden.
How is it done?
The surgical technique used by the surgeon will depend on the objective of the plastic surgery, and it is likely, for example, that there is removal or scraping of cartilage. Points can be given behind the ear or at existing structure creases.
Generally, ear surgery is performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia and sedation. It can be done in the operating room of hospitals or qualified clinics.
As in all surgery, previous tests, fasting and suspending anticoagulant medications, such as aspirin, are necessary, following what the doctor indicates preoperatively.
The duration of otoplasty is usually from one to two hours, and may extend in more complex cases, such as congenital malformations.
Recovery is usually fast and with little pain. In about a week, the patient can return to the usual activities and, around a month, return to physical exercise.
There is a need to use a helmet or bandage dressing – otoplasty bands – in the first few days. Then there is the replacement for a compressive band, which should be used for a month.
Before and after otoplasty
Generally, the result is visible from the first days, with edema (swelling) of the operated area, which usually improves 90% or more in the first two weeks.
After a month, the result is very close to the definitive.
In the case of prominent ears, they are expected to maintain a fairer position to the head. It is also possible to perform the decrease of the ears.
Anyone in good health and with normal preoperative examinations (blood and heart tests suitable for each age group) may undergo otoplasty.
Risks, complications in otoplasty
Otoplasty is a very safe surgical intervention with predictable results, usually free of complications provided that all recommendations made by the plastic surgeon are followed. However, there are always some risks inherent to any surgery or anesthesia, however these will be reduced if some recommendations are followed, namely the indication of appropriate surgery, the surgical technique, postoperative care, the preparation of the surgery, the choice of a specialist in plastic surgery and in a place with adequate resources. After these conditions, risk factors will certainly decrease the rate of complications.
Although rare, as main complications we can refer to bleeding, hematoma, pain, edema (swelling) higher than anticipated, infection, among others.
In the expected results, there is a risk of asymmetry, especially in adult ears, who have the most hard cartilage, tending to lose the angle of correction and return to deformity. These situations can be avoided in most cases, but if they do, they can be corrected with a new surgical intervention.