The normal ear lies at an angle of 15 degrees from the head and ears that stand out at a greater angle may be considered to be prominent. In the new born ‘bat ears’ may be corrected by gentle taping of the ears to the side of the head or the wearing of a ‘cradle cap’. If the problem remains uncorrected after infancy, correction may only be achieved by operation. However, as the ears continue to grow until the age of seven years, the operations may not be considered until then.
Pinnaplasty can be carried out under general anaesthetic (usually recommended for children) or local anaesthetic. The incisions are generally placed behind the ear, occasionally in front. The cartilage of the ear is remodelled and, on occasions, some of the cartilage may be removed. The sutures (stitches) may be absorbable or may require removal after 7 to 10 days.
Following The Surgery
After surgery, the ears may be covered with a large head dressing which is worn for about a week. After this it is advisable to wear a tennis head band for six weeks although, due to pressures of school or work, it may only be possible to wear the head band at night. Occasionally, a bandage may slip post-operatively causing one ear to heal in a slightly different position to the other which may necessitate a further minor correction under local anaesthetic.
It is normal to feel moderate discomfort following pinnaplasty. There may still be some bruising and swelling on removal of the dressings but this will settle rapidly, within a week or two, and the improvement in the prominence of the ears will be apparent.
Particular care is taken during the operation to stop any bleeding from the small blood vessels divided during surgery. Occasionally, a small blood vessel leaks post-operatively causing bleeding and this may necessitate a return to the theatre. However, this situation is very rare.
Numbness after pinnaplasty is fairly common but the ears will eventually return to normal. Mild infection is possible around the stick line after surgery but this usually resolves itself quite quickly.