Ear reconstruction is one of the most critical surgeries done for the treatment of ear deformities. Ear construction is performed in cases of underdeveloped or missing ears also known as microtia, and due to various other physical injury, deformities and acquired abnormalities. Its basic goal is to create a realistic ear shape so that it does not catches much attention. These transplants are done using the patients own rib cartilage which is very similar to the tissues in our ear.
Some ear reconstruction surgeries require a few surgical stages, while others can be performed in one go. Ear reconstruction surgery is a highly technical procedure performed to rebuild the ear. With time, this particular surgery has gained importance as it helps many to revive their lives. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Rajat Gupta, Board certified plastic surgeon, Joint secretary of the Indian Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (IAAPS), Rosewalk hospital, Panchsheel park, about the reasons why one requires ear reconstruction, what happens in the surgery and some pre and post care tips.
Reasons Why and When One Requires Ear Reconstruction
Choosing the correct time for operation is one of the most important factors for achieving long lasting and stable results. The ear can get damaged due to various reasons including physical trauma, severe illness, or a congenital (present at birth) deformity such as microtia. According to Dr. Rajat, here are the main reasons that require ear reconstruction:
1. Physical trauma
Trauma or cancer surgery can lead to tissue loss, requiring plastic surgery to restore the form and function of the outer ear. Trauma, which means an injury to your ear after being in an accident. One needs to stay aware while travelling or lifting any heavy weights to prevent any accidents or trauma.
2. Congenital deformity
Congenital deformity is the abnormality in ears that is present since birth. In such cases, an otoplasty is performed. In an otoplasty, there is a cosmetic surgery on the outer and visible parts of the ear. For example, ear pinning can surgically place the ears closer to the head to make them less visible.
Microtia is a congenital deformity involving the underdevelopment of the external ear. It may only affect one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ears. There are also four grades, depending on the condition’s severity. Microtia can cause severe unhappiness for parents who want happy and healthy children.
What Happens in the surgery?
Ear reconstruction surgery is then used to create a natural-looking external ear that also helps the patient maintain proper balance. To perfectly create and shape the patient’s new ear, rib cartilage is harvested. Rib cartilage ear surgery is one of the most common ear reconstruction techniques. During the procedure, the surgeon removes a portion of the rib cartilage and carves it to create a new ear framework. This framework is then placed in a pocket under the scalp skin, allowing it to stay alive and grow with the body.
Rib Cartilage ear surgery might need 2-4 surgeries for the optimum results since the surgery is usually done in two parts. The patient also needs to be at least eight years old. By this age, most potential patients have developed the necessary rib cartilage for the ideal results. However, if this is not the case, the surgery may be delayed until enough disposable cartilage creates a symmetrical ear. Generally, once the chest circumference reaches 60 cm, the surgery can be performed. The surgery usually leaves a scar about 6-8cm in length on the patient’s chest but has no adverse side effects.
What are ear prosthetics?
Ear prosthetics, i.e artificial ears is one of the other ways of reconstruction of ears. These are usually not preferred for children because prosthetics are fragile and costly, and children tend to damage them. They require regular care and upkeep. It can also cause discomfort in kids. It is best suited for adults who don't have that active lifestyle.
Pre-Surgery Care tips
One should be careful about each and every step before going in for a surgery. And, do not hesitate to ask any pre or post surgery related questions to your doctor.
As per Dr. Rajat, before your surgery, you need to keep in mind:
- No Anti-inflammatory medication for 2 weeks
- No Sun damage for 2 weeks
- No Food or drink the night before
- Wear loose-fitting clothes that do not need slipping on
Post-Surgery Care tips
Post operative care is also important in all the surgeries, including an ear reconstruction surgery. The success of a surgery depends on many factors and that includes taking care of post surgery instructions as well. According to Dr. Rajat, after your surgery, you need to keep in mind:
- Keep your head elevated
- Avoid your ears during shampooing and hairstyling
- Take the doctor-prescribed medication on time
- Avoid extreme physical activity and sun exposure for 4-6 weeks
- Keep follow-up appointments and alert the surgical team if there are any complications
So, these were the reasons why one may require an ear reconstruction and what happens in this surgery. You can know about the pre and post care of ear reconstruction surgery by reading the above mentioned listed tips by Dr. Rajat Gupta. Before the surgery, the surgeon will conduct a detailed medical history test and examination, as well as hearing tests.
Besides congenital deformities, many people even get ear reconstructed due to cosmetic factors.
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