Risks & Complications of Otoplasty
Every surgical procedure involves a certain amount of risk and it is important that you understand the risks involved with otoplasty. An individual’s choice to undergo a surgical procedure is based on the comparison of the risk to potential benefit. Although the majority of patients do not experience the following complications, you should discuss each of them with your surgeon to make sure you understand all possible consequences of otoplasty.
Bleeding – It is possible, though unusual, to experience a bleeding episode during or after surgery. Should post-operative bleeding occur, it may require emergency treatment to drain accumulated blood (hematoma). Do not take any aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications for ten days before surgery, as this may increase the risk of bleeding. Non-prescription “herbs” and dietary supplements can increase the risk of surgical bleeding. Accumulations of blood under the skin may delay healing and cause scarring.
Infection – Infection is unusual after this type of surgery. Should an infection occur, treatment including antibiotics or additional surgery may be necessary.
Change in skin sensation – Diminished (or loss) of skin sensation in the ear area may not totally resolve after otoplasty surgery.
Ear trauma – Physical injury after the otoplasty procedure would disrupt the results of surgery. Care must be given to protect the ear(s) from injury during the healing process. Additional surgery may be necessary to correct damage.
Skin contour irregularities – Contour irregularities and depressions may occur after otoplasty. Visible and palpable wrinkling of skin and ear cartilage can occur.
Skin scarring – In rare cases, excessive or abnormal scars may result. Scars may be unattractive and of a different color than surrounding skin. There is the possibility of visible marks from sutures used during an otoplasty. Additional treatments including surgery may be necessary to treat abnormal scarring.
Surgical anaesthesia – Both local and general anaesthesia involve risk. There is the possibility of complications, injury, and even death from all forms of surgical anaesthesia or sedation.
Asymmetry – The human face is normally asymmetrical. There can be normal differences between ears in terms of shape and size. There can be a variation from one side to the other in the results obtained from an otoplasty procedure.
Delayed healing – Wound disruption or delayed wound healing is possible. Some areas of the ear may heal abnormally or slowly. Frequent dressing changes or further surgery to remove the non-healed tissue may be required.
Smokers have a greater risk of skin loss and wound healing complications.
Allergic reactions – In rare cases, local allergies to tape, suture material, or topical preparations have been reported. Systemic reactions which are more serious may result from drugs used during surgery and prescription medicines. Allergic reactions may require additional treatment.
Long term effects – Subsequent alternations in ear appearance may occur as the result of aging or other circumstances not related to otoplasty surgery. Due to the resilient nature of ear cartilage, revisionary surgery may be necessary in order to improve the results following otoplasty surgery.
Pain – Very infrequently, chronic pain may occur from nerves trapped in scar tissue after an otoplasty.
Deeper sutures – Some surgical techniques use deep non-absorbable sutures. These items may be noticed by the patient following surgery. Sutures may spontaneously poke through the skin, be visible, or produce irritation that requires removal.
Unsatisfactory result – You may be disappointed with the results of surgery. Infrequently, it is necessary to perform additional surgery to improve your results.
Additional Surgery Necessary
Should complications occur, additional surgery or other treatments may be necessary. Even though risks and complications occur infrequently, the risks cited are particularly associated with otoplasty. Other complications and risks can occur but are even more uncommon. The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee or warranty expressed or implied on the results that may be obtained.
Deep Venous Thrombosis, Cardiac and Pulmonary Complications: Surgery, especially longer procedures, may be associated with the formation of, or increase in, blood clots in the venous system. Pulmonary complications may occur secondarily to blood clots (pulmonary emboli), fat deposits (fat emboli) or partial collapse of the lungs after general anaesthesia. Pulmonary and fat emboli can be life threatening or fatal in some circumstances. Air travel, inactivity and other conditions may increase the incidents of blood clots traveling to the lung causing a major blood clot that may result in death. It is important to discuss with your surgeon any past history of blood clots of swollen legs that may contribute to this condition. Cardiac complications are a risk with any surgery and anaesthesia, even in patients without symptoms. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you might require hospitalisation and additional treatments.
Smoking, second-Hand Smoke Exposure, Nicotine Products (Patch, Gum, Nasal spray): Patients who are currently smoking, use tobacco products, or nicotine products are at a greater risk for significant surgical complications of skin dying, delay in healing and additional scarring. Individuals exposed to second hand smoke are also at potential risk for similar complications attributable to nicotine exposure. Additionally, smokers may have a significant negative effect on anaesthesia and recovery from anaesthesia, with coughing and possibly increased bleeding. Individuals who are not exposed to tobacco smoke or nicotine containing products have a significantly lower risk of this type of complication. It is important to refrain from smoking at least six weeks before surgery and until your surgeon states it is safe to return, if desired.
Female patients information: It is important to inform your surgeon if you use birth control pills, estrogen replacement, or if you believe you may be pregnant. Many medications including antibiotics may neutralize the preventive effects of birth control pills, allowing for conception and pregnancy.
Intimate Relations after Surgery: Surgery involves coagulating of blood vessels and increased activity of any kind may open these vessels leading to a bleed or hematoma. Increased activity that increase your pulse or heart rate may cause additional bruising, swelling and the need for return to surgery and control of bleeding. It is wise to refrain from sexual activity until your surgeon states it is safe.
Medications: There are many adverse reactions that occur as the result of taking over the counter, herbal, and/or prescription medications. Be sure to check with your surgeon about any drug interactions that may exist with medication that you are already taking. If you have an adverse reaction, stop the medication immediately and call your surgeon for further instructions. If the reaction is sever, go immediately to the nearest hospital. When taking the prescribed pain medication after surgery, realize that they can affect your thought process. Do not drive, do not operate complex equipment, do not make any important decisions and do not drink any alcohol while taking these medications. Be sure to take your prescribed medication only as directed.