Ears are normally set close to the head. The word prominent ear means that ear is set away from the head (see the photograph). Also the curves and details seen normally are missing, that is the ear looks ‘flat’.
When is the Surgery done?
The surgery can be done anytime after 4 to 5 years of age. By that time the growth of the ear is complete and the surgery can be done without affecting the growth of the ear. The ear surgery can be done any time thereafter, but earlier the surgery, the better to minimize the psychological trauma of teasing a child may be having. There are no additional risks if the surgery is done at a later age or during adult hood.
What type of anesthesia ?
In children a general anesthesia, putting the child to complete sleep is preferred. In older more cooperative children and adults a combination of local anesthesia and sedation is adequate.
What does the doctor do in operation?
The surgeon gives an incision in the back of the ear and exposes the cartilage. The cartilage is given new shape by either scoring it outer surface or folding it on itself and then taking stitches to retain the shape or a combination of both. Sometimes the surgeon may remove a piece of skin and / or cartilage for the desired result.
Sometimes even when one ear is affected the other ear may be modified to give a balanced result.
The surgery lasts for abut 2 to 3 hours (Both sides). It leaves a scar on the back of the ear, that will become less visible with time.
The patient is given a dressing wrapping the ears. The dressing is tight and bulky to promote the molding of the ear in new shape and to minimize any collection between the skin and the cartilage.
What is the course after operation?
Most of the patients are mobile within few hours of the surgery. Although, the doctor may advise an overnight stay for those patients who have undergone surgery under general anesthesia.
There is generally some pain in the ear which is controlled by the medications. The pain will persist for about 4 – 5 days. The dressing will be changed on about 4th day and a lighter dressing will be applied. Stitches are taken off on 7th day. Sometimes the doctor might prescribe protective gear to prevent any impact on the operated ears.
The patient may be allowed to go to school or work after about a week. It is however important to protect the ear from any injury.
What to expect from the surgery ?
The results of surgery are generally very satisfactory and improvement is remarkable. However perfect symmetry between the two ears is very difficult to achieve and should not be expected.
What are the complications ?
Collection of Blood under the skin : This usually dissolves on its own or it may have to be removed by puncturing it with a needle.
Infection: Infection is treated either with antibiotics or it may require an incision for removal of collection. In case of infection there may be an excess scar formation.
It is to be noted that all these complications are uncommon and not all the complication would occur in a given patient.