As a Champaign plastic surgeon who performs otoplasty, or ear surgery, I’m often asked about the safety of the procedure, especially as it relates to small children. It’s an important question, because protruding ears can be extremely challenging for children, and this procedure can provide much-needed relief.
In social settings, children with protruding ears can sometimes be psychologically affected by their peers’ teasing, frequently causing insecurity or a poor self-image that may carry into their later lives. This makes otoplasty an attractive option for children and for the parents who love them and want to spare them unnecessary emotional trauma, but the thought of the risks of surgery may turn some concerned parents away. The good news is that otoplasty can be performed fairly early in a child’s life with very few risks.
When Is It Safe?
Otoplasty is most commonly performed on children who are anywhere from age 4 to 14. A child who is 4 may seem a little young for surgery, but children’s ears are fairly close to their adult size between the ages of 4 and 6, so there is very little risk of the results being compromised by dramatic growth.
With that said, otoplasty is not just safe for children, it is actually preferably completed during childhood. There are the obvious psychological benefits of limiting the years that children will be teased for their protruding ears. It’s also preferable to perform the surgery at a young age because the cartilage in a child’s ears is much more pliable than that of an adult’s, making the procedure easier to perform.
Otoplasty can be safely performed under general anesthesia. Children can return to their daily activities in about a week, but should avoid strenuous exercise and contact sports (essentially any activity that could potentially hurt the ears). Parents need to be vigilant and pay extra attention while their children play in the weeks following surgery.