Since facial plastic surgery can be so effective in treating the signs of facial aging and effectively turning back the clock to make a person appear younger, many believe that the various plastic surgery procedures are only useful to older patients. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it has long been my philosophy that the treatment of facial aging is best accomplished with a graduated process that starts with subtle, minimally invasive procedures to maintain the look of the younger face and only moving to more comprehensive facial plastic surgery when necessary. Moreover, some cosmetic and reconstructive procedures can address issues that can affect patients of all ages. For example, otoplasty, or ear surgery, can help improve the shape, position or proportion of the ear by correcting a defect in the ear structure that was present at birth, treating alteration in the shape of the ears caused by injury, or even reducing the size of ears that have grown larger due to the effects of time and gravity.
Between the third and sixth months of fetal development, the cartilage forming the outer ears begins to undergo a series of folds which give the ear its characteristic appearance. However, in some cases, the developmental process can be interrupted, resulting in prominent ears where a missing fold causes the ears to stick out from the head unnaturally far. Cosmetic otoplasty techniques can often decrease the prominent ear by recreating the missing cartilage folds, bringing the ear closer to the head, and reducing the size of the earlobes in order to give the ear a more normal anatomical appearance1. These procedures are generally carried out on children between the ages of five and seven years, when the ear is nearly of adult size and the cartilage is of adequate thickness to tolerate scoring or hold sutures2.
In adult patients, external factors can also lead to changes in the appearance of the outer ears that may make cosmetic or reconstructive ear surgery necessary. Specifically, blunt trauma to the ear resulting from accident or violence may cause blood clots to interrupt the usual blood supply to the cartilage. Over time, this may result in cauliflower ear, an acquired deformity of the outer ear that gives it a lumpy and shriveled appearance. In this case, reconstructive ear surgery, using either cartilage taken from other areas of the patient’s body or artificial grafts, can reshape the ear and create a more balanced, aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Finally, sagging, drooping ear lobes can sometimes be a source of concern with older patients. Studies have determined that all ears naturally elongate by 0.22 millimeters per year, a fact that can even be used by forensic scientists to determine the approximate age of a person. While this may seem like a small amount, it can be enough to subtly shift the proportions of the facial features and unbalance the appearance. Ears, like any other facial feature, also tend to sag with age, due to the gradual loss of elasticity in the skin and soft tissues combined with the effects of gravity. This phenomenon can even be accentuated by a lifetime of wearing heavy earrings. Cosmetic otoplasty can often be used to treat the problem and give the ears a more natural and youthful appearance.
Many other plastic surgery techniques can be used for both cosmetic and reconstructive purposes. If you are interested in learning more about any of the plastic surgery procedures that I perform, please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, today. Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. also can provide a variety of options for financing, including CareCreditSM, in order to assist you. Be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.
- Burstein, FD.: Cartilage-Sparing Complete Otoplasty Technique: A Ten Year Experience with 100 Patients. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. 2003 Jul;14(4):521-5.
- Cohen, SR., Burstein, FD.: “Protruding Ears.” In: Spitz, L., Coran, A.G. (ed.), Rob & Smiths’ Operative Surgery. Chapman & Hall Medical, London, 1995.