Reconstructive ear surgery may be needed for a few reasons: congenital defect, an injury or trauma to the ears or simply if you are unhappy with the shape and would like a change. This surgery is called an otoplasty and can be performed on patients as young as four years old.
The most popular type of reconstructive surgery is called ear pinning. This procedure can change the shape of the ear and bring it closer to the head. For children, this procedure is done under general anesthesia; adults can usually get by with just a sedative and a local anesthetic. An incision is made behind the ear to expose the cartilage, which is reshaped, and any excess skin is removed. The ear can then be repositioned so it sits closer to the head. Finally, the incision is closed with stitches. This procedure typically takes one to two hours.
Ear pinning can be performed with two different techniques, cartilage sparing or cartilage scoring. The cartilage sparing technique involves creating an incision in the cartilage itself; this is a more invasive procedure and can lead to scarring. The cartilage sparing technique uses only stitches and sutures to change the shape and position of the ear, creating a smoother and more natural-looking ear.
Reconstructive ear surgery is commonly used to treat a congenital defect called Microtia. Microtia occurs in three out of every 10,000 births and results in small and underdeveloped ears. Burns and injuries from torn piercings can also be treated with reconstructive ear surgery. If the ears need to be built back up, cartilage from the ribs and skin from the upper buttocks area are used.
Ear reduction surgery is performed if a patient is unhappy with the size and shape of their ears. The doctor will cut into the cartilage and skin to reshape and create a smaller looking ear. Often, ear pinning will be performed at the same time.