Otoplasty, or prominent ear correction as it is commonly known, aims to recontour the ears so that they are standing less proud of the head. Ears that stand proud of the head are often known as “bat ears” and people can find themselves very self-conscious regarding the appearance of prominent ears. Surgery can be used to reposition the ears in a less prominent position in parallel.
Prominent ear correction is frequently carried out on children, and CAER Plastic Surgery can offer outstanding care for children for this operation. The operation is generally carried out under General anaesthetic, Dr Pam Cupples is our specialist Paediatric Anaesthetist.
If one looks at the anatomy of an ear one can see a deep conchal bowl just beside the ear canal. Beyond this, folds of cartilage that fold closest to the conchal bowl are known as the anti-helix fold. Prominent ears are very often contributed to by a very deep conchal bowl or lack of definition of the anti helical fold.
Surgery aims to address particularly these two areas:
- by making the conchal bowl more shallow the ears sit less proud from the head, and
- by improving the definition of the antihelical, fold the upper ear will tend to fold slightly more flush with the head
Naturally ears should not lie completely flush with the head as this would give an unnatural appearance when surgery is used to achieve it. An ear should always sit slightly off the head in order to give it a natural appearance.
Surgery for prominent ear correction aims to achieve that natural appearance by deepening the conchal bowl, improving the anti-helical fold definition, but not overdoing it to create ears flat against the head. Very often there is a degree of asymmetry with one ear being more prominent than the other. Surgery aims to address this asymmetry as far as possible, correcting the more prominent ear more than the less prominent ear.
The surgery is achieved by making an incision behind the ear and accessing the ear cartilages through the opening behind the ear. Once the ear cartilages have been readjusted and repositioned the opening is stitched together leaving a scar which is pretty well concealed in the depths of the fold behind the ear.
Risks and complications of otoplasty or prominent ear correction
As with any surgery, some aspects of prominent ear correction may be more challenging than others. It is possible to achieve undesired effects, whether that be visible contour irregularities or over-correction, or complications as such.
All surgery has a risk of complication and it is well worth going through in detail during a consultation the pros and cons of the surgery and the risks related to prominent ear correction in particular, both with respect to the surgery planned and the individual concerned.
After surgery for prominent ear correction
After surgery, before the cartilage has had a chance to heal into its new position, it requires to be supported.
This is done by means of special anti-septic cotton-wool placed directly against the ear within the folds of the ear cartilage and supported by means of a head bandage or head garment. The head garment is quite like a helmet or headgear and needs to be worn for a number of days, often a week to ten days after surgery. Obviously one can feel pretty daft wearing the head bandage and it is always wise to allow enough down-time following a prominent ear correction to be able to wear a head bandage without feeling self-conscious.
Even after the head bandages are removed the ears are often quite bruised and swollen and it can be a while before they return to their normal colour and contour. Usually people who are seeking prominent ear correction have become quite adept at hiding their ears with various hairstyles or headwear. After prominent ear correction surgery it may be necessary to carry this on for a little while, perhaps for two or three weeks after surgery, to allow the bruising and swelling and reactivity of the ear to settle before showing off the result.