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The indications

Aesthetic surgery can dramatically improve ears that protrude, are folded down and forward, rimless, too small or large, or those missing natural folds and creases. Surgery can also address large or stretched earlobes, or lobes with deep creases and wrinkles. In some cases, only one ear can be reshaped to gain the necessary facial symmetry. Usually Otoplasty is considered cosmetic; however it becomes reconstructive if it restores a congenitally deformed or traumatically deformed ear to its normal shape, size and position. In addition, if reshaping the ear allows better function, which could include the ability to wear glasses, then the procedure is medically necessary and deemed reconstructive rather than cosmetic. Setting the ears back so that they are closer to the sides of the head is generally considered aesthetic.

Ears reach their full size around five to six years of age. Parents who are concerned with the appearance of their child’s ears are encouraged to visit a plastic surgeon sooner rather than later. The first reason is anatomical—the cartilage is extremely pliable in small children. Second, the child will reap psychological benefits from the cosmetic procedure. However, if the patient is too immature to safely follow directions or unable to follow instructions, then it may be more prudent to wait until the patient is older.

Adults often choose ear surgery in conjunction with other facial plastic surgery procedures. In general, there are no greater risks associated with ear surgery for an adult. There are certain unusual circumstances where the correction will result in a scar that may be worse than the original problem. When more complex reconstructive techniques are being used to rebuild an underdeveloped ear, such as using flaps or grafts, then there are more risks of complications, subsequent scarring and possible increased distortion of the ear.

Dr. Watanabe will discuss the associated risks and complications for your particular situation during the consultation.

The procedure

Ears can be surgically altered in several ways. They can be “pinned back,” reshaped, reduced or made more symmetrical. The technique used is determined by the specific goal of the surgery. An incision is made behind the ear in the natural fold that joins the ear to the head. The cartilage is either removed, folded or trimmed. Once the skin and cartilage are properly shaped, permanent sutures are used to anchor the cartilage in its new position. Otoplasty only affects the shape of the outer ear. Normally the performance of this procedure does not influence the patient’s hearing at all.

Otoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure. Typically either general anesthesia or local with sedation is used.  Ear surgery usually requires two to three hours depending upon the extent of correction desired.  

You can expect

You will awaken with soft dressings around your ears to protect and mold the ears as they heal. These will stay in place for 7 days. A headband may need to be worn for up to three to four weeks following surgery to keep the ears in position. Any discomfort should be mild and can be alleviated with oral medication. You should avoid putting any pressure on the ear area for at least one week. This may temporarily impact your sleep habits. Depending upon the procedure, stitches will either dissolve or be removed in approximately one week. Adults can plan on returning to work about 7 days after surgery. Children can go back to school after one week if they are monitored during playground activity. For at least one month, the patient must be particularly careful to avoid any situation in which the ear may be pulled or bent.
The scar, hidden within the natural crease of the ear will be barely visible and become a thin white line within 6 months.

A word about financing

Financing is available through our partners at CareCredit. Visit them at Lupe or Ellies would be happy to help you with any questions regarding this service.

Insurance Notes

Insurance policies vary widely, but if there is a legitimate health issue Dr. Watanabe will act within the stipulations of your coverage if possible. Surgery to correct or improve birth defects or traumatic injuries to the ear may be reimbursable.  Patty can assist you with any pre-certification requested by your carrier.


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