Otoplasty, or ear reshaping, is a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of a person's ears. Although otoplasty does not affect hearing, it can provide great psychological benefits. Otoplasty is most commonly performed to set unusually prominent ears back closer to the head, called ear pinning, or to reduce the size of abnormally large ears. Ear surgery may also be helpful to reconstruct abnormally small ears or lop ears or to repair ears which have been damaged by injury or cancer surgery.
The otoplasty procedure generally lasts one to two hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used typically depends on the age of the patient. General anesthesia is recommended for very young patients, while local anesthesia and a sedative may be used for older children and adults. The otoplasty procedure begins with a hidden incision made behind the ear. The cartilage is then sculpted and bent into its new position to achieve the desired appearance.
Patients usually feel back to normal a few hours after the procedure, although the ears may ache or throb for a few days. Prescription medication will be made available to help alleviate any discomfort. A few days after the otoplasty procedure, the bandages will be replaced with a terry cloth headband that should be worn for about two weeks while sleeping. After about one week following otoplasty, patients are usually able to return to their normal routines.
As with all surgery, there are risks associated with otoplasty. A small percentage of patients may develop a blood collection or infection. Other possible complications may include partial or complete loss of the correction if internal sutures break. This is unusual. Patients are usually very pleased with the results of ear surgery, but should not expect their new ears to match exactly since even normal, natural ears are not entirely symmetrical. Complications are rare and usually minor, and can be minimized by choosing a qualified and experienced surgeon like Dr. Lipson and by carefully following his aftercare instructions.
The auricle (outside) of the ear is composed entirely of soft tissue. The more rigid areas consist of skin covering cartilage with a minor amount of connective tissue between the two, while the earlobe lacks structural support. Earlobes are fragile structures that are susceptible to damage, especially after being pierced; large and heavy pieces of ear jewelry will only exacerbate the weakness of the ear lobe. Luckily, they can generally be repaired with successful results and minimal risk of deformity.
If a person's earlobe does split, whether from jewelry being aggressively pulled or through chronic use of heavy or bulky jewelry, the procedure is straightforward and painless. Local anesthetic is applied through injection into the earlobe and the two ends of the tear are brought together by both dissolving sutures in the inner tissue and skin sutures on the surface. The repair is dressed with ointment and should heal promptly. In most cases the lobe is re-pierced at the same sitting, and the patient drives herself home.
If the earlobe has split from the weight of heavy jewelry, the procedure might need to be delayed until the tissue is no longer inflamed. In rare cases, part or all of the earlobe may be separated from the ear during injury, in which case more steps may need to be taken by Dr. Lipson to repair the wound and reconstruct the earlobe.
Earlobe reconstruction patients generally do not need pain medication, as over-the-counter pain relievers will usually suffice. Skin sutures will be removed within a week after surgery. Otherwise, recovery is quite fast, with most patients returning to normal activity in less than a week.
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