Pediatric ear surgery can address both cosmetic and reconstructive concerns. Families come to my practice to learn more about their options, whether their child has ears that stick out significantly or they have a newborn whose ears never developed fully.
Through a consultative and informative approach, families are able to make the best decision for themselves and their child. Following treatment, patients benefit from improved aesthetics of the external ear.
What to Expect with Pediatric Ear Surgery
Fairfax and Northern Virginia families explore pediatric ear surgery for different reasons and at a range of times in their child’s life. In our initial consultation, I take the time to review the options available, answer their questions, and help them have confidence in whichever approach they choose. The procedure that I recommend depends on the patient, who may range in age from infant to late teens.
Cosmetic Concerns and Very Young Children
I encourage patients and parents to visit my practice as early as possible about cosmetic concerns. Coming in sooner means we have more options for less invasive measures.
Many babies are born with ears that stick out, are tucked, or are folded. I can often resolve these concerns using the EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System. The cartilage in a young child’s ears is still soft, and these molds can help shape the ear, helping them avoid surgery and discomfort.
Cosmetic Concerns and Older Children
Pediatric ear surgery for older children can address prominent ears, or ears that “stick-out”. This is usually done by re-folding the ear cartilage and suturing it so the ear lies flat against the head. Sometimes excess cartilage is resected to achieve the same result. Either way, permanent stitches are used to hold the ear in the new position as it heals.
On the day of surgery:
- Patients receive general anesthetic to keep them comfortable.
- I make incisions and use stiches to reshape the ear cartilage. This helps the ears lie flatter against the head.
Fairfax and northern Virginia patients go home the same day as their procedure and wear a special headband to support the surgical site throughout their recovery. My experience has shown excellent outcomes for this type of pediatric ear surgery, which I can perform for patients of almost any age.
Cartilage Stem Removal
Children are sometimes born with cartilage stems: small “stalks” that can develop anywhere from the corner of the mouth to the center of the ear.
Removing these cartilage stems is a straightforward procedure, and for babies requires a brief general anesthetic. Pediatric ear surgery Fairfax and Northern Virginia patients who are old enough may receive a local anesthetic rather than a general anesthetic. The result of surgery is typically a very small scar that typically heals well and is not noticeable.
Rebuilding / Replacing Cartilage
Children who need more extensive reconstructive surgery usually must wait until they are eight or nine years old. These patients are born with ears that did not form properly, including cartilage that is missing or very small. The aim of surgery is to create an ear that fits aesthetic norms more closely.
Patients usually have three or more surgeries. These procedures harvest and re-form cartilage for the ear, and they reconstruct the skin that covers it. Since patient needs differ, the initial consultation helps us decide the right path for each child.
Recovering from Pediatric Ear Surgery
Fairfax and Northern Virginia patients who have surgery to address ears that stick out usually have some soreness for one to two weeks, which families can manage with pain medication. They wear the supportive headband day and night for the first four days, and then only at night until they have made a full recovery. The outcome is ears that stay closer to the head and that are less prominent.
Patients who have cartilage stems removed have minimal recuperation time. Once they recover from anesthesia, it’s a matter of waiting for a few stiches to fall out on their own as they heal.
Because reconstructive pediatric ear surgery varies patient to patient and because the timeline includes multiple surgeries, each has its own recovery and recommendations. I advise patients and their families about the approach in advance to help them prepare for each stage.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Jespersen to explore pediatric ear surgery. Fairfax and Northern Virginia families can contact us at (703) 992-7969 or through our online form.