The great majority of plastic surgery procedures are reserved for people who are fully grown and in most instances, have started to show signs of aging. It doesn’t make sense to perform a facelift on a young child or teenager and it’s often ill-advised to perform rhinoplasty on a child who hasn’t finished growing. The exception to the rule is ear surgery, or otoplasty.
Ear surgery is commonly performed on kids and teens. The surgery is possible once a child’s ears have almost finished growing, which typically happens by age 4 or 5. While some parents may be nervous about having a young child undergo an elective procedure, in many cases, the benefits of otoplasty at a young age outweigh the concerns or risks.
Cartilage More Flexible
One major advantage of performing ear surgery while a person is very young is that the cartilage is still malleable and flexible at that point. The surgery is typically performed to reduce the amount that the ears protrude from the side of the head. It involves making an incision along the back fold of the ear, removing some of the excess cartilage, then closing the incision. At the end of the surgery, the ears should be closer to the head without looking as though they were pinned back. The surgery can also be performed to reduce the size of very large ears or to correct ears that are folded over.
Nips Teasing in the Bud
Ear surgery early in life can improve a child’s quality of life. Kids can be very mean to each other, and many kids make fun of others who look slightly different. While children might not call each other names around the age of 5, it usually starts around or slightly after that point in time. Having your child undergo otoplasty before he or she reaches the age when kids start bullying can be beneficial for his or her overall mental health and for your happiness as a parent.
Child Is Likely to Forget Discomfort
While you may be worried that having surgery at a young age will frighten your child or that he or she will have intense memories of the pain of the surgery, the opposite is likely to be true. The experience of going to a hospital can be scary for a child, but you can do a lot to make him or her feel less afraid. For example, you can stay by your child’s side and let him or her bring along a stuffed animal to the surgical center.
Your child may feel some discomfort after the surgery, but that is usually very easily managed with pain medications. You can also keep the child occupied with movies and books as he or she recovers and give him or her special treats to make the recovery a little more bearable. The body is very good at forgetting pain, so your child will most likely not remember what the recovery felt like in a few weeks or months.
Your Child’s Schedule Can Be More Flexible
It can be a lot easier to fit ear surgery into the schedule of a child than into the schedule of an adult. If your child is in school, you can schedule the otoplasty for the summer, so that he or she doesn’t have to miss class. If your child has yet to start school, the surgery can be scheduled at any time of year.
The big concern when it comes to scheduling is if you are able to take time off to care for your child during the day. If both parents work, you can alternate days off, or one of you can take a few days off, then the other can take a few days off. You may have to arrange for a family member or babysitter to stay with your child during the day if you can’t take off from work.
Is It Right for Your Child?
While there are many benefits to ear surgery for a child, the surgery isn’t for everyone. The surgeon will evaluate your child and let you know if it is appropriate for him or her based on a few factors. One factor is how much the child’s ears have grown. If the ears haven’t grown enough yet, the surgeon will most likely recommend delaying the surgery.
Another factor is your child’s overall outlook and maturity. He or she should be able to pay attention, listen and follow directions. If your child seems very upset about the idea of surgery, it might be a good idea to wait a few months or delay the procedure indefinitely.
Dr. Kyle Choe specializes in plastic surgery of the face and neck in Virginia Beach. He is available to discuss ear surgery for children with you. Call (757) 389-5850 for an appointment today.