Otoplasty describes cosmetic plastic surgery performed on the ears, including ear enlargement.
Patients can have otoplasty performed to change the size and shape of their ears, and they can also have it done to “pin back” protruding ears. Otoplasty can be done on one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
Unilateral otoplasty can be done to correct problems like one ear being larger than the other.
There are several possible techniques for enlarging ears, and the doctor will pick one based on the patient’s needs and age. Otoplasty procedures usually take around two hours, and the patient can be given a local or general anesthetic.
Ear enlargement procedures can involve synthetic or autologous implants. In MEDPOR® graft surgery, the surgeon uses a synthetic material that can be shaped into an ear or part of an ear. The surgeon can then cover the material with a skin graft taken from the patient’s scalp.
Autologous procedures use cartilage taken from the patient’s ribs. The doctor will shape the cartilage and attach it to the original ear. Over time, the cartilage will eventually fuse with the ear. Cartilage taken from the patient’s body has the large advantage of avoiding rejection. On the other hand, it may feel stiffer than a normal ear.
What is Microtia?
Microtia is a congenital defect in which the patient has an abnormally small ear. Microtia can range in severity from a small but normal-looking outer ear to a small and deformed ear and even to no outer ear at all. Most patients with microtia are born with small and malformed ears that are shaped like peanuts. Microtia can also involve absence or malformation of the ear canal.
What is Constricted Ear?
In constricted ear, also known as lop or cupped ear, the helical or top rim of the ear is folded over. The condition can be caused by a shortage of skin, cartilage, or both. If the patient is a baby whose ear cartilage is still soft, the doctor or parent can use a variety of non-surgical molding techniques to reshape the patient’s ear. Older patients will need surgery.
In the most severe cases, the surgeon will need to take cartilage from the patient’s ribs to replace the defective cartilage in the ear. In milder cases, the surgeon may be to work with the cartilage present to shape a more normal-looking ear.
Candidates for Ear Enlargement
The youngest a patient can be for ear surgery is usually around five or six years old. By that age, their ears will have reached their adult size. Microtia patients undergoing MEDPOR® graft procedures can be as young as three, however.
A patient who is undergoing rib cartilage graft surgery needs to be at least eight to ten years old. A child that age will be sable to produce enough cartilage for the graft. They will also generally be mature enough to have and voice opinions about their treatment and follow the doctor’s instructions regarding their recovery.