Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)in Boston


Named Among the Best Plastic Surgeons in Boston

Helena O. Taylor MD, PHD, FACS & Stephen R. Sullivan MD, MPH, FACS

Ears normally have a delicate and refined appearance with standard folds and creases. Ears are made of cartilage, which is flexible yet elastic and returns to a specific shape when twisted or pushed. Sometimes ears stick out or are too prominent or too large. Ears can also change over time with the earlobe getting longer or wrinkled with aging or a split from earrings or trauma. As fellowship trained craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeons, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan have extensive experience in the complete range of ear surgery and have published some of their experiences with the most complicated ear problems.

Otoplasty (Ear Reshaping)

Experienced Boston Otoplasty Surgeons, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan can create the delicate structures and a normal appearing ear with less prominence. The otoplasty procedure is also known as ear setback or ear pinning. There are many otoplasty techniques - Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan will customize a treatment plan and use techniques based on each individual to give the most natural appearing ear.

In addition to being plastic surgeons with fellowship training in facial surgery, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan are also pediatric plastic surgeons and completed additional training to care for children with prominent ears.

Otoplasty is an outpatient operation for children, teens, and most adults. The otoplasty procedure is performed through incisions hidden behind the ear so there is no visible scar. Excess skin is removed and the cartilage is then sculpted and sutured to help create natural appearing folds, less prominence, and improved ear contour. Long-acting numbing medicine provides post-operative comfort, and the incisions are closed with a combination of dissolving sutures and sutures that gently and easily slide out one week later.

Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan often work together as a team to perform otoplasty to ensure efficiency and the very best result. The operation takes approximately two hours. Patients recover quickly from the procedure and return home on the same day with limited discomfort. A soft headwrap is worn for 5 to 7 days to reduce swelling and pressure. Although there will be some swelling, the correction and improvement in ear shape is immediate and tremendous.

Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan care about your recovery and want to ensure you have a gentle and easy recovery. They will talk to you about when you can expect to return to school or work, activities, and exercise. On average, patients have minimal disruption in normal daily activities, take 5 to 7 days off from work, and take two weeks off from exercise. Most patients benefit from wearing an athletic or fashionable headband at night for a few weeks while sleeping.

Ear Reshaping (Otoplasty) At A Glance

Ideal Otoplasty Candidate

  • Children at least 6 years of age
  • Teens
  • Adults

WHAT OTOPLASTY DOES

  • Corrects ears that stick out
  • Repairs earlobes
  • Creates natural ear folds

DURATION OF OTOPLASTY RESULT

Years

LENGTH OF OTOPLASTY PROCEDURE

2-3 hours

TYPES OF ANESTHESIA

Local, Sedation (sleepy) or General Anesthesia (asleep)

RECOVERY

  • Comfortably at home
  • Most swelling resolves – 2 weeks

TIME OFF SCHOOL OR WORK

5-7 days

TIME OFF ACTIVITIES

  • Activities of daily living – 1 day
  • Light exercise – 1 week
  • Full exercise and contact sports – 6 weeks

EARLOBE REPAIR (TORN EARLOBE REPAIR, SPLIT EARLOBE REPAIR)

Earlobes can split due to trauma, slow migration of earrings, or dilation of earlobes with ear gauges. Recruits for military, police, and other jobs may be required to have dilated earlobes repaired. Fortunately, these changes can be carefully repaired to restore the normal fullness and curve of the earlobe.

Some patients may want to pierce their ears again after they have healed from the procedure - consider waiting several weeks until the earlobe has regained strength and start with a lightweight non-allergenic metal. Earlobe repair is performed gently and requires only local anesthetic in the office. Patients have little or no pain or discomfort and may use Tylenol and Ibuprofen postoperatively if necessary.

There is no disruption to work or school schedule, exercise or activities. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and requires no bandages or dressings. Sutures are easily removed 7 to 10 days later. For your convenience, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan can meet you via telehealth to examine your ears and to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. We can then schedule the ear lobe repair when you are ready.

Earlobe Repair or Reshaping At A Glance

WHAT EARLOBE REPAIR DOES

  • Corrects split earlobe
  • Rejuvenates earlobe
  • Creates natural ear curve

DURATION OF EARLOBE REPAIR RESULT

  • Years

LENGTH OF PROCEDURE

0.5-1 hours

TYPES OF ANESTHESIA

Local

RECOVERY

Comfortably at home

Sutures removed – 7-10 days

TIME OFF SCHOOL OR WORK

  • None

TIME OFF ACTIVITIES

  • None

Ear Reconstruction

The delicate skin and curving cartilage of the ears can be rebuilt or created. Whether from trauma, skin cancer, Mohs reconstruction, or birth defects, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan have experience with treating simple as well as the most complicated ear problems.

As board-certified plastic surgeons as well as fellowship training in pediatric and craniofacial surgery, they are experienced with using your natural tissues to reconstruct ear tissues. One of the most technically difficult and demanding operations is this example of ear replant, published by Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Taylor in the New England Journal of Medicine. Fewer than fifty successful operations such as this have been reported around the world.

Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan successfully restored this woman's ear after a dog bit injury. The ear was reattached using super microsurgery and a high-powered microscope. The leech, seen in the middle image, reduced venous congestion while the body restored blood flow. On the far right, the ear is seen several months later with a normal appearance.

What Are The Types Of Ear Procedures

  • Earlobe repair, also known as a torn earlobe or split earlobe repair, is a procedure to correct split or damaged earlobes often from earrings, trauma, or ear gauges.
  • Ear reshaping, also known as otoplasty, ear setback, or ear pinning, corrects prominent ears that occur in children and persist into adulthood.
  • Earlobe fat grafting, to naturally restore volume to sagging earlobes by fat transfer
  • Earlobe reduction, also known as earlobe shortening, rejuvenates earlobes that become long, wrinkled or deflated with aging
  • Non-surgical Earlobe rejuvenation, to restore volume to deflated earlobes with filler
  • Keloid scar removal, for removal of large scars after ear piercing
  • Ear reconstruction, for repair following trauma, cancer or birth deformities

Keloid Scar

Ear piercings can sometimes develop into large scars, known as a keloid. The scars can grow quite large like a tumor. Ear keloid scars can be treated with steroids and surgical removal. Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan use a Dermojet (no needles!) to instill steroids into the keloid. Over time, the keloid can soften and flatten and then be removed to restore the natural appearance of the earlobe. Repeat treatments with steroids can help decrease the chance that a keloid returns.

EARLOBE REDUCTION (EARLOBE SHORTENING)

Heavy earrings, sun exposure, and aging cause collagen and elastin damage, resulting in droopy, saggy, and thin earlobes. Old looking earlobes can betray your age, despite a youthful face or facial rejuvenation with eyelid lift, neck lift or face lift. Earlobe reduction is often combined with other facial procedures to rejuvenate earlobes that become long, wrinkled or deflated with aging. The incision is hidden on the back side of the earlobe to maintain a natural curve without a visible scar. At the same time, the earlobe can be naturally plumped with fat grafting.

EARLOBE FAT GRAFTING (FAT TRANSFER)

Earlobes become deflated and wrinkled with age. A permanent crease can form near the piercing, enlarging the hole and giving the appearance of a split earlobe. To naturally restore volume to sagging earlobes, fat can be harvested by minimally invasive techniques from an undesirable area and transferred to the earlobe. This can be performed with just local anesthesia or a part of a more comprehensive facial rejuvenation in the operating room.

OTOPLASTY AFTERCARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • In the week before your Otoplasty (Ear Setback) Surgery:
    • Consider eating pineapple, it may help reduce bruising
    • Complete schoolwork or household chores
    • Follow preoperative instructions with eating, drinking, and medications
  • Postoperatively, get out of bed and walk (with assistance) every few hours after your operation to decrease the chance of postoperative problems such as blood clots. 
  • Practice 15-20 deep breaths every hour to keep your lungs open. 
  • After Otoplasty surgery, it is important for you to have someone available to stay with you for the first 24 hours, as you may feel drowsy. You may require help the first few times you get out of bed. 
  • Please take your medications as directed by Dr. Taylor or Dr. Sullivan to manage discomfort or symptoms.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 8 hours, space doses 4 hours after Ibuprofen so one or the other is taken every 4 hours
    • Ibuprofen (Motrin) every 8 hours, space doses 4 hours after Acetaminophen so one or the other is taken every 4 hours
    • Oxycodone 5 mg – 1-2 tablets every 6 hours as needed for pain, though many patients may not need it
    • Adults may also have:
    • Gabapentin 300 mg every 8 hours for 7 days
    • Vitamin C 500 mg daily for 50 days 
    • Colace 100 mg twice daily to prevent constipation, it is important to have a bowel movement each day
    • Zofran 8 mg every 8 hours if needed for nausea
    • Scopolamine patch may be placed on the neck on the day of surgery and can stay for 3 days to prevent nausea

DIET

  • Eat a light diet for 2-3 days and avoid spicy food. Some suggestions to ease abdominal discomfort or indigestion after surgery:
    • Drink water or warm liquids
    • Prune juice to prevent constipation

WOUND CARE

  • You may have a head wrap dressing. The dressing will usually removed by Dr. Taylor or Dr. Sullivan one week after Otoplasty (Ear Setback) surgery. You can then wear an athletic headband or cloth headband for another 2 weeks day and night and for 6 weeks at night while sleeping. 
  • You may shower or sponge bath the day after the operation, but keep your headwrap dressing dry. After your dressings has been removed, you may wash your hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner and your face with a gentle soap. Avoid snagging the ears with a brush or comb. 
  • Elevate your head and shoulders and when in bed keep your head elevated about 30 degrees (two pillows under your head and back) to help with the swelling. 
  • Do not smoke or expose yourself to smokers or nicotine as ear skin and wounds can be compromised. 
  • You may apply ice packs to the headwrap dressing, and once removed, to the ears for comfort and to reduce swelling. Bags of frozen peas and corn make for excellent ice packs. You might also consider Icewraps Gel Packs or Swiss Safe gel packs, which can be ordered from Amazon or online. Apply the ice packs for 20 min of each hour while awake. Do not put significant pressure on the ears. 
  • Your hair may be dried with a blow dryer on a cool, not a hot, setting. Hair coloring or use of hair products should be delayed until 3 weeks after surgery or when all wounds are healed and there are no crusts or scabs. 
  • Some bleeding from the incisions is expected for 3 to 4 days and may be seen on the head wrap. 
  • Sutures will be removed by Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sullivan approximately 7 – 10 days postoperatively 

ACTIVITY

  • For the first week following Otoplasty (Ear Setback) surgery, raising your blood pressure and heart rate can cause bleeding. Avoid straining or vigorous activity. We recommend walking 2 to 3 times per day for 15 minutes. Do not lift anything heavier than 10-20 lbs, run, lift weights, or perform strenuous exercise for 7- 10 days 
  • Avoid contact sports for 6 weeks following Otoplasty (Ear Setback) surgery.

GENERAL OUTCOMES

  • Moderate swelling and bumpiness of your ears is to be expected and will increase for 48 to 72 hours. Much of the swelling usually resolves within the first few weeks after Otoplasty (Ear Setback) surgery though some mild swelling can take one full year to resolve. Please be patient. 
  • Tightness of the skin and fuller appearing ear features is also normal and will smooth out as the swelling resolves and the tissues soften. 
  • Tingling, itching, and numbness of the ear skin are all normal after Otoplasty (Ear Setback) surgery. Tingling and itching are signs of healing and will resolve. Sensation to the skin may return gradually and slowly over several weeks, though some areas may always have loss of or decreased sensation. 
  • Scars and tissues take one full year to mature. You may notice that they become red, raised and firm for several weeks to months before becoming soft, flat and pale. Avoid Vitamin E as it can irritate the skin and scars. Mederma has no proven benefit and is not worth the expense. All incisions will be sensitive to sunlight during the healing phase. Direct sun exposure or tanning booths are to be avoided. Silicone cream, such as Biocorneum Advanced Scar Treatment, or skin moisturizer with sunscreen and gentle massage may be helpful. 
      • Please call our office (617-492-0620) if you have: 
      •  Continuous bleeding 
      • Significantly more pain or swelling on one ear when compared to the other 
      • Fever, spreading redness, or irritation of the ears 
      • Shortness of breath

It is important to be seen by Dr. Taylor or Dr. Sullivan after your operation. They will see you in follow-up appointments at 1 week, 3-6 months, and 1 year or as often as needed post-op. Call to schedule your appointments at Taylor & Sullivan Plastic Surgery office at (617) 492-0620 between the hours of 8:30 – 5:00 or visit our webpage at www.massplasticsurgeons.com. We are always available for postoperative concerns or emergencies and can be reached through our paging service 24 hours per day at (617) 492-0620.

Download our Facelift and Neck Lift Aftercare Instructions here.

Call Today 617.492.0620

To schedule a private consultation with Dr. Taylor or Dr. Sullivan, please call the office or request an appointment using our form. We welcome your visit and your questions.

300 Mount Auburn St. Ste 304, Cambridge, MA 02138

Taylor & Sullivan Plastic Surgery Boston
American Society of Plastic Surgeons American Board of Plastic Surgery Fellow American College of Surgeons America Association of Plastic Surgeons Sigill Massachusetts

617.492.0620

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300 Mount Auburn St. Ste 304, Cambridge