Otoplasty, also known as cosmetic ear surgery, is a procedure to change the shape, position or size of the ears. Techniques vary based on what kind of correction is needed. The specific technique your plastic surgeon chooses will determine the location of the incisions and the resulting scars. Generally speaking, there are two problems with protruding ears: the first is a lack of formation of the “anti-helical fold”, and the second is an excessively deep cup of the ear called the “conchal bowl.” What otoplasty does is helps to create or deepen the anti-helical fold by using a special suture technique called Mustardé sutures. The conchal bowl can be made less shallow by more sutures and sometimes the removal of small ovals of cartilage. This procedure is individualized for each patient and accomplished through a small incision that is hidden in the crease behind the ear.
Otoplasty is one of the few cosmetic procedures that can be performed on children, as young as 6 years old. By the age of 6, a child’s ears are 90% adult size. This is when most children start to socialize more in school and may be subjected to teasing. So, surgery at this young age is advisable for a child who is uncomfortable with negative attention about their ears. However, we often find that young children may not be forthcoming about being teased, so it is important to talk to them about their experiences to determine if they are feeling ostracized or embarrassed because of their ears. If they aren’t bothered by their ears, surgery is not necessary or should be put off until it becomes a problem.
Opting for plastic surgery, especially on a child is never an easy decision. There are people who suggest that this should never be done. But, if your child is being teased and it is affecting their ability to develop self-esteem, then he or she might be a candidate for surgery. We don’t consider otoplasty cosmetic or aesthetic plastic surgery. Rather, we believe it to be reconstructive plastic surgery for an inborn deformity almost akin to cleft lip surgery or even braces for buckteeth.
This procedure is very safe, with an extremely high success rate. For adults, otoplasty is performed under local anesthesia. For children, we perform this procedure under general anesthesia.