The surgery is called otoplasty and it is targeted to correct protruding or large outer ears. It is usually performed in children ages 4-14. The ear reaches it`s final size around ages 4-6 and therefore it is better to perform the surgery at a younger age to avoid unnecessary suffering.
Additional conditions which can be corrected are “lop ear”, in which the upper ear is folded and leans forward; “cupped ear”, in which the outer ears are unusually small; and “shell ear”, in which there is a flattening of the folds resulting in a shell-like ear. Long, short or torn ear lobes also can be fixed. This operation can repair congenital ear defects and make reconstruction of the outer ear after trauma.
The operation usually takes between 1-3 hours; more complex procedures may take even longer. A cut is made behind the ear, making it invisible, to allow access to the ear cartilage. Then the surgeon will design the cartilage, using cuts and sutures, to get the desired shape. In some cases, non-absorbable stitches are used in order to create a fold. Such stitches will be under the skin and there is no need to remove them. A few surgeons prefer to make the cut in front of the ear and hide the scar behind the skin folds. In most cases the scar fades over time and is hardly seen. Both ears can be corrected in the same operation.
With younger children a general anesthesia is preferred, where cooperative adults can be treated using local anesthetics and sedative drugs.
Every operation has its risk. There is a risk of blood clots under the scar area, which usually absorb after a few days, otherwise, there would be a need to drain then. There is a risk of infection involving the ear cartilage which can leave a scar. Such infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics in most cases and it would rarely require surgical drainage.
After surgery, the majority of adults can return home, where young children usually remain overnight for observation. The ears are bandaged with a bandage around the head to prevent bleeding and preserve the final shape. The ears will be swollen and painful for a couple of days. It is advised to avoid any activity which can harm the ears for about a month. Children should pay extra attention while playing. A patient should not sleep on the repaired ear for about 7-10 days.