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The problem

Most prominent ears lack a normal fold of cartilage. Sometimes other parts may be affected, and one ear may be worse than the other. Children with prominent ears are often teased at school.

What can be done?

Surgery is carried out to correct the deformities and set ears back closer to the head and create the most natural look. The result is a more attractive look that allows you to wear hair short or pulled and restores confidence.

Limitations

The operation is usually carried out after the age of 5 when cartilage has adequate strength to hold stitches. The goal of surgery is improvement and not perfection. Perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears. Some deformities are completely correctable. Most patients are very happy with the results of surgery.

Surgical procedure

In children surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthesia. For older children or adults it may be possible to carry out the surgery under local anaesthesia often in combination with intravenous sedation.

Skin incision is made behind the ear to expose the ear cartilage. The cartilage is then sculpted and permanent stitches are inserted to help maintain the new shape of the cartilage. Any redundant skin and tissue is removed. The wound is closed and a turban-like head bandage is secured in place to help the moulding and healing. The surgery leaves a feint scar in the back of the ear that fades with time.

After the operation

Children are usually up and around within a few hours of surgery although they often stay in hospital overnight until all the effects of the general anaesthetic wear off. The ears may ache for a few days but this can be relieved with simple painkillers (eg Paracetamol, Ibuprofen). The turban bandages are removed after around 10 days. Any necessary stitches are also removed at this time. A lighter head dressing similar to an exercise headband is worn, particularly at night, for 6 weeks. Contact sports and strenuous activity should be avoided for about 3 weeks.

Time off

Most children can go back to school after a week and adults may return to work with in 48 hours.

Potential complications

The scar behind the ear usually fades well but on rare occasions it can become red and lumpy Unfavourable scars are more common in Black or Asian patients.

Infection is uncommon but if it does occur it usually settles down with antibiotics.

Bleeding can occur but is usually minor because of the head dressing that is used.

Loss correction may occur especially if the ears are traumatised before healing is complete.

The ears usually feel numb or tingly for several weeks or even months after surgery. This sensation exaggerated when exposed to cold. Occasionally further surgical correction may be required.

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