As the name implies, ear reconstruction surgery is a medical procedure that aims to rebuild or repair the auricle or pinna (the external part of your ear).
There are several approaches to performing ear reconstruction surgery. For example, doctors can take the cartilage from the ribs as a framework for the ear. Or they can use a medical implant. Others use an artificial ear to anchor to the bones.
Why Do Doctors Perform this Surgery?
Doctors perform ear reconstruction surgery to help people who have the following conditions:
- Anotia (missing ear)
- Folded ears
- Burnt ears or ears with traumatic damage
- Cryptotia (ears buried under the skin)
- Pointed ears with extra skin folds (Stahl’s ear)
- Microtia (underdeveloped ears)
Overall, if there are any deformities in the outer ear, ear reconstruction surgery may be able to correct them. It cannot affect your ability to hear. But if you have surgery to correct your hearing problem, ear reconstruction may be added to the procedure.
What Are the Risks of Ear Reconstruction Surgery?
Like any other major surgery, ear reconstruction surgery has risks of bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia. Besides those, others include:
- Scarring – Surgery scars are permanent. But, doctors can hide scars behind the ears if possible.
- Scar contraction – Sometimes, a scar can tighten as it heals, which can cause the ears to change shape or damage the skin surrounding the ear.
- Skin breakdown – Skin covering the ear framework can break down, exposing the cartilage or implants underneath, resulting in another surgery.
- Damage to skin graft site – Scars can appear at the site where doctors took the skin. If it’s from the scalp, hair may not grow anymore.
How Do You Prepare For Ear Reconstruction Surgery?
Ear reconstruction surgery is a complex procedure and requires a team of specialists. Typically, you’ll meet with a plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in ear care). If there’s a risk of hearing loss, a hearing specialist will get involved with the surgical plan.
To know if ear reconstruction surgery is right for you, the team will most likely:
- Review your medical history – You will have to answer questions about your past and current medical condition and previous surgeries.
- Do a physical exam – A health care provider will do an ear examination, and another member may take pictures of your ear or create an impression to help with the surgical plan.
- Order imaging exams – Imaging exams like x-rays can help the team assess the bone structure surrounding your ear and determine what approach they should take for the surgical procedure.
- Discuss your expectation – The health care provider will most likely talk to you about the possible outcome of the procedure and its accompanying risks.
What Happens After The Procedure?
Depending on the surgery, you can either go home on the same day as the procedure. Or stay in the hospital for a few days. But, you’ll most likely experience:
Follow the instructions given to you by your healthcare provider. If the pain meds are not enough, contact them immediately.
Talk to your health care provider about how to take care of your ear after the surgery. You may have to cover it for several days. Besides that, talk about when you can return to your normal routine too, like bathing or other activities.
When you sleep, do not sleep on your reconstructed ear. And do not put pressure or rub it. Only wear clothes like button-down shirts or loose-fitting collars.
It can take months for surgeries, like a microtia surgery, to properly heal, So only ask for ear reconstruction surgery 1https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/ear-reconstruction#:~:text=Ear%20reconstruction%20is%20a%20form,an%20otologist%20may%20be%20necessary. from trusted professionals. The last thing you want is to have unsuccessful surgery with permanent consequences.
Additional resources and citations