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Otoplasty: What is the Right Age for My Child’s Surgery?

Parenting is one of the most gratifying and hardest jobs, and seeing your child being teased can be an unfortunate part of raising children.  Prominent or “stuck out” ears are one of the reasons we see young children at Aviva Plastic Surgery, and the teasing kids and young adults describe often pushes them to consider surgical otoplasty, or ear shaping.

Approximately 5% of all patients are born with prominent or protruding ears.  This condition can be corrected non-surgical ear splinting or molding within the first few weeks, but some patients develop prominent ears later or are bothered by their appearance as they grow older.  Beyond infancy, surgical otoplasty is the best treatment option to address the “stuck out” or “unfurled” appearance of prominent ears.  In addition to recovery timeline, pain, and scarring, patients and their parents often ask us about the best timing of otoplasty for their kids.


Otoplasty surgeryWhat is the right age for a child’s otoplasty?

“I think the best time to do an otoplasty is when the patient is physically and emotionally mature enough for this surgery,” says facial plastic surgeon Dr. Fishman.  The majority of the adult ear size has developed by the age of 3, she relates, and beyond this, the patient should be mature enough to get through recovery well.  “Most of the children undergoing otoplasty are 5-7 years old as the youngest,” says Dr. Fishman.  This is a common age for otoplasty as children are generally mature enough to follow pre- and post-surgery instructions, and also start facing some ear-related teasing around this age.  “So many parents consult with our practice wanting to avoid painful ridicule and teasing for their kids,” says Dr. Fishman.


When is the best time of the year for otoplasty? 

The best time really depends on the child’s and the family’s schedule, relates Dr. Fishman; the child needs enough time to recover before returning to school and sports, and comply with post-operative activity restrictions.  Most patients need 2-5 days’s recovery before returning to work or school, though there are definitely exceptions.  “Most kids are so resilient,” says Dr. Fishman, “and some of our pediatric patients end up bouncing back and not even needing Tylenol within 1-2 days after surgery.”  As part of post-surgery recovery, Dr. Fishman recommends several weeks of wearing an ear-covering headband nightly and avoiding any activity that can pull on the ears.  She asks patients to avoid water in pools, lakes, and oceans for 3 weeks after surgery to decrease the risk of infection.

“Sun exposure doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of healing in my experience,” says Dr. Fishman, “and time of the year, I don’t think impacts otoplasty timing or recovery in the relatively mild GA climate.”  She relates it is more important to have a child who is physically and emotionally prepared for an otoplasty for best outcomes.

Are you or your child bothered by large or stuck out ears?  Schedule your consultation with our expert team to discuss your treatment options today!

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