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If protruding or disﬁgured ears bother you or your child, otoplasty in Washington DC may be an appropriate option. Otoplasty — also known as ear pinning surgery — can improve the shape, position or proportion of the ear.
Otoplasty can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth that becomes apparent with development or it can treat misshapen ears caused by injury. Ear surgery creates a natural shape while bringing balance and proportion to the ears and face. In cases where the earlobes are misshapen or damaged as a result of trauma, patients may need earlobe repair.
The potentially dramatic results obtained from this relatively minor surgery, including the reshaping, reduction in size, creation of symmetry, as well as the “pinning back” of the ears, can improve an individual’s self-esteem.
Otoplasty is a type of ear surgery that is performed to create a harmonious balance between the ears and the head and face. It’s usually done to correct ear protrusion or a “lop ear” but can improve a portion of the ear or the overall position and shape of the ears. The prominence of the ears can be vastly improved with the otoplasty procedure, resulting in a flatter ear contour, more symmetry, and an overall flattering appearance.
Ears may appear more prominent for two primary reasons. One is an overgrowth of cartilage tissue within the “bowl” of the ear, which is seen from the front. The other is the underdevelopment of the antithetical fold near the upper ear. This area of cartilage forms a Y shape that contributes to the ear’s overall shape and projection. During your consultation for otoplasty, Dr. Pittman will carefully evaluate the ears and explain to you the structural abnormality that requires correction.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that otoplasty accounted for 33 percent of all plastic surgeries in patients aged 13 to 19 in 2021. That is the highest percentage of all procedures in that age group, and it doesn’t account for otoplasty surgeries performed on children younger than 13 years of age.
There is a reason why otoplasty is so common among children and teens. Studies strongly support the emotional benefits this procedure has to offer young people. Correcting ear protrusion or abnormal shape early in life can spare a child the teasing that can alter their self-confidence. Children whose ears stick out are often subjected to unwanted stares, comments, and worse. The effects of this form of bullying can have long-lasting, detrimental effects. For this reason, parents might consider otoplasty as soon as their child’s ears have fully developed. It may be possible to schedule ear pinning surgery at age five or six.
While otoplasty might offer significant benefits to young patients, adults are not excluded from undergoing this advantageous surgery! At any age, the correction of protruding ears can supply a significant boost in self-confidence.
Otoplasty is generally considered a very safe and effective surgery. Only the external aspect of the ear is altered. There is no risk to your hearing. The primary risks we discuss during your consultation are infection, hematoma, bleeding, the formation of abnormal scar tissue, and injury to the ears during recovery that can lead to a recurrence of the initial problem.
Dr. Troy Pittman performs otoplasty under general anesthesia for children and either local or general anesthesia for adults. The procedure lasts around 2 hours and is performed on an outpatient basis in our state-of-the-art, all-private surgical suite.
Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head. Dr. Pittman will then remove the necessary amounts of cartilage and skin required to achieve the desired effect. After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, Dr. Pittman will apply sutures to secure the ear until healing occurs to hold the ear in the desired position.
There are several techniques that can be used for this procedure and Dr. Pittman is more than happy to discuss them with you more in detail during the consultation.
Otoplasty surgery can be performed using local anesthesia, with or without sedation. This is the norm for older teens and adults who want to improve the shape of their ears. When otoplasty is performed on children, a surgeon will usually use general anesthesia. Administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist, general anesthesia prevents pain and also causes mild, short-term amnesia that allows the patient to not remember any part of their surgery. The use of general anesthesia does not change the process of the surgery. Patients are still released the same day, once the effects of their sedative medication have worn off.
The recovery period after otoplasty isn’t extensive. It could be described in stages based on the level of activity restriction and care that’s needed at a given time.
Otoplasty recovery may require the use of over-the-counter or prescription painkillers for a few days. The ears will be protected by a light bandage for up to a week. After that time, if the stitches are not dissolvable, you’ll come into the office to have them removed. This gives us a chance to assess your initial results and ensure you’re healing properly. After the stitches are gone, you may need to continue wearing the light compression. This may be in the form of a headband appropriate for daytime use, and one that is worn during sleep.
The primary goal during otoplasty recovery is to avoid accidental bumps and tugs on the ears. You may be instructed to avoid high-level physical activity for a few weeks, but can expect to return to school or work after one to two weeks.
Otoplasty recovery is relatively brief. There is short-term discomfort to contend with and a few activity restrictions. For example, you or your child may need to refrain from hair-washing for a few days. After about 72 hours, light normal activities can be resumed. However, an elastic wrap or headband will need to be worn to protect the ears from accidental bumps. Initially, the headband must be worn at all times. After one to two weeks, the gentle compression accessory is only needed at nighttime when sleeping.
To prevent injury to the ears while they heal, we recommend wearing clothing that buttons or zips up the front. This is advisable for teens and adults who dress themselves as well as children who are assisted by a parent. Even a mindful parent can accidentally brush against an ear and potentially disrupt the healing process.
Sensation to the ears may change temporarily after surgery. Patients can hear normally but the outer ear may feel numb or tingly as nerve endings re-attach where incisions have been made. This is precisely why it is necessary to wear a headband that covers the ears. If touching or a bump were to occur, it may not be felt, and damage could occur that would prolong the recovery process or diminish the cosmetic result of surgery. When the ears can be uncovered, it remains important to avoid touching and rubbing the surgical area. During recovery, the ears may go from feeling tender and achy to feeling itchy. This can be challenging for patients of all ages but must be understood as a normal side effect that cannot be scratched.
In most cases, otoplasty is deemed a cosmetic, elective surgery. As such, it’s not usually covered by insurance. That said, there have been instances in which insurance benefits are available. It comes down to the insurance company’s policies and qualifying criteria. We suggest that you contact your insurance company directly for explicit information regarding their stance on ear pinning surgery.
If you have further questions regarding otoplasty in Washington DC, please call or contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation. With the help of Dr. Troy Pittman, you can correct the appearance of your ears.
Check out some of our work in these before and after galleries for otoplasty.