Reconstructive ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure to repair the size, angle and shape of the auricula - the external part of the ears -, which are damaged either from birth or through accident. External ear anomalies, including defects and deformations, affects up to 19% of new-borns alone. Startlingly, however, only 987 Britons sought to repair their ears in 2017.
Otoplasty has been around for well over 2,500 years. The first recorded otoplasy procedure was performed in Ancient India circa 600BC by the father of surgery, Sushruta Samhita. In the two and a half millennia since, reconstructive ear surgery has grown by leaps and bounds, and today, it can literally change a person’s life.
Children with deformed or irregularly shaped ears frequently experience bullying and social ridicule from their peers. Children are lovable, but they have the capacity to be vicious without understanding the full impact of their actions. All too often, children with deformed ears develop life-long psychological problems due to the constant teasing and taunting. In some cases, the verbal abuse even follows them into adulthood.
As a result, the victims will often have low self-esteem and self-confidence. They will also have a distorted body image. The combination of factors will lead to a host of other emotional issues that will considerably affect their quality of life.
Thankfully, a two-hour otoplasty session can permanently resolve all these issues – especially if the procedure is performed when patients are still young. Post-surgery, children will immediately feel a sense of normalcy. In fact, for some of them, this simple surgery will allow them to wear helmets or hats without fear of ridicule. And within a short period of time, the trauma caused by the incessant mocking will disappear.
Example of a reconstructive ear surgery. Image by Otto Placik, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Otoplasty can treat numerous types of deformities, including, but not limited to:
• Microtia - underdeveloped or absent external ears
• Marotia – overdeveloped or abnormally large external ears
• Drooping or protruding ear flaps
• Weak cartilage
• Trauma related deformities (accidents, injuries, animal bites, etc)
In most cases, the surgery will take between half an hour and two hours. Full recovery rarely exceeds two weeks (usually just several days), and complications are extremely rare.
• Hematoma, or bleeding, occurs in 3.5% of cases. Please see your doctor if there is excessive bleeding, pain or swelling in the days after the procedure. The risk is low, but left untreated, it can lead to disfigurement or deformity (cauliflower ear).
• Some sutures (particularly braided sutures) can trigger inflammatory reaction which causes swelling and infection. Clean dressing and antibiotics will usually resolve the issue.
• Bacterial infection occurs in about 5% of cases. The immune system of a healthy person will usually be able to handle minor infections. For serious cases, antibiotics or IV antibiotics may be required.
• The auricular region may develop keloid (scarring or fleshy growth) several weeks after the surgery. A 6-month treatment regime using triamcinolone injections will typically resolve the issue.
• Cartilage-related surgery may suffer a loss of correction months and even years after the initial procedure. In such instances, patients will have to undertake a corrective surgery.