Otoplasty a simple solution for malformed or protruding ears
Ear pinning is best done when patients are old enough to be involved in making the decision. (Fotolia.com / April 24, 2013)
Children and teens with ears that are overly large or protruding are often ridiculed by their peers. Boys grow tired of having to grow long hair to cover their ears, while girls affected by the problem are reluctant to even tuck their hair behind their ears or wear a pony tail.
Otoplasty, or ear pinning, can give these children more balance to their facial features, but many patients and parents are unaware that overly prominent ears can be corrected by means of this simple surgical procedure.
For the majority of patients with large, malformed, or even injured ears, dramatic improvement can be achieved through otoplasty surgery. The procedure takes between one and two hours, depending upon the specific condition being addressed. It can be done under local anesthesia in an office setting, but for younger children or according to patient wishes, anesthesia can be used. Hospitalization is not required, recovery is quick, and pain control is easily achieved with mild analgesic medications.
Ear pinning can be performed at any age but is best done when patients are at least 6 or 7 years old and can be involved and invested in the decision and surgical process. I've performed this operation on children as young as 4, but prefer them to be closer to 6, when they're more aware of their bodies and become excited about the change to their ears.
Although I do see some adults seeking to improve their ears, most patients are children. Concerned parents -- most often prompted by their children -- bring the youngsters in for evaluation during their school years. As with all elective surgery, it's very important for the patient to be involved in the decision-making process.
When the patient is excited about the prospect of changing their ears, he or she is motivated and able to smoothly navigate the surgical process.
GENETICS ARE A FACTOR
As for numbers of people affected, studies can't isolate any race or gender for the condition, but some data, as well as empirical evidence, suggests genetic inheritance is often involved. There also seems to be no gender predilection. Available data suggests that 53 percent of teens undergoing otoplasty procedure are males.
Approximately 33 percent of all otoplasty procedures are performed on boys and girls in their teens. However, as mentioned above, I've had numerous adult cases. In fact, one patient was in his 70s. I knew the procedure had been successful when he cut his hair short enough to expose his ears for the first time in years. Otoplasty brings a lot of joy to both patient and doctor.
As I see patients back in my office following recovery with improved confidence and big smiles on their faces, I'm happy to know I've contributed to that happiness in some way.
(Scott K. Thompson, M.D., is board certified in both facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, as well as otolaryngology. For the past six years, Thompson has joined a group of surgeons from Boston, Mass., and Rochester, N.Y., who travel to Ecuador and Guatemala twice a year on a charitable journey to correct congenital ear deformities in local children.)
(WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at http://www.whatdoctorsknow.com.)