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Otoplasty Risks

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Anyone experiencing self-consciousness because of protruding, deformed or large ears can find an excellent solution in cosmetic ear surgery (otoplasty). By repositioning the ears closer to the head (pinning), or surgically altering the shape of the ears, patients can enjoy boosted confidence and increased self-esteem, knowing their ears have become far less prominent. Otoplasty also involves a relatively brief recovery time, making it a very rewarding plastic surgery procedure for many patients.

However, like every surgical procedure, cosmetic ear surgery involves risks. The chances of experiencing complications during this treatment, or as a result of it, are usually minimal. However, it is important to have an understanding of the problems that occur, and to discuss them with your surgeon before committing to otoplasty.

Infection

Infection of the skin and cartilage is one of the most common otoplasty complications. It also poses the greatest threat to the success of the procedure. Should an infection develop after cosmetic ear surgery, it is generally relieved with an antibiotic medication. If the infection results in the formation of scar tissue, a very rare complication, then it may be necessary to address the area surgically.

Blood Clots

The formation of a blood clot in the ear is another possible risk of cosmetic ear surgery. A very infrequent complication, blood clots can be removed with a needle or may simply dissolve naturally. If the patient experiences prolonged swelling and bleeding, then the surgeon should be contacted immediately to ensure that the ear is healing properly.

Overcorrection

When cosmetic or reconstructive ear surgery is performed by an inexperienced or poorly-skilled surgeon, the potential risk of overcorrection of the ears is elevated. Otoplasty overcorrection can refer to:

  • Placing the ears too close to the head
  • Contour distortions
  • Inadequate correction
  • Asymmetric correction

The risk of overcorrection can be greatly reduced by choosing a physician with extensive training and proven results. Anyone considering cosmetic ear surgery is encouraged to learn as much as they can about their prospective surgeon's credentials and qualifications before committing to any plastic surgery procedure.

Loosening of Sutures

A risk commonly faced by children that have undergone otoplasty is the loosening of sutures. Often a result of boisterous activity or inattention to bandaging, loosened or popped sutures may cause the ear to return to its original shape or position. Carefully following the surgeon’s post-operational instructions can prevent this from occurring. For adults and children alike, this usually means avoiding strenuous or vigorous physical activity should be avoided for at least a week following surgery. Adults are usually advised to stay home from work for a day or two after surgery. Young children are generally told to stay home from school for about a week. A full recovery from cosmetic ear surgery usually takes about six weeks.

Hearing Loss

Many ear surgery patients wonder whether there is a risk of hearing loss associated with otoplasty. Complications of this kind are extremely rare, and are almost never seen. Distortion of the auditory canal, through major changes of the concha, can cause alterations in hearing. However, a highly skilled cosmetic ear surgeon is able to evaluate the possibility of such a risk and take the necessary steps to avoid any hearing damage.

Unwanted Gradual Reversal of Treatment

In most cases of cosmetic ear surgery, the results are satisfying and permanent. But because the ears consist mainly of cartilage, a tissue with great natural elasticity, patients who have had their ears surgically pinned closer to their head may observe a slight amount of “springing back” taking place in the years following the procedure. In many cases, facial plastic surgeons take measures to reduce this effect during the initial procedure through slight overcorrection, leaving a margin for the ears to shift slightly while maintaining a long-term natural shape. In some cases, patients may wish to undergo otoplasty revision surgery many years after their initial surgery in order to keep the look they desire. However, studies show that about 85 percent of cosmetic ear surgery patients remain satisfied with the long-term results of otoplasty.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view otoplasty before and after photos.

Photo credit: Arizona Cosmetic Surgery

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Otoplasty is generally regarded as a safe procedure that leaves most patients satisfied for years following the procedure. Complications associated with cosmetic ear surgery are rare and most can be relieved with medication or simple treatment. Complications that can take place following surgery can be avoided by carefully following your surgeon’s recommendations regarding your bandages and day-to-day activity. By choosing a reputable plastic surgeon that has experience and expertise in otoplasty, you can decrease the risks associated with this procedure. If you would like to learn more about where to find an otoplasty surgeon, search DocShop’s  directory of facial plastic surgeons in your area.

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