The following information is about having surgery on the ear lobes. Please note that each and every operation is tailored to the individual needs of the patient, so no two operations are exactly the same. It is therefore important to discuss your aspirations and concerns with your surgeon.
What is ear lobe surgery?
Ear lobe surgery is an operation performed on the ear lobes. This can take one of many different forms depending on the problem:
- Correction of a split ear lobe
- Repair of a hole in the ear lobe (eg. following ear piercing)
- Ear lobe reduction (for bulbous ear lobes)
Before the operation, medical photographs may need to be taken which will be used to plan the surgery. The operation can be performed under either a general or local anaesthetic, usually as a day case. For more information about the anaesthetic, please see the information sheets ‘Having a general anaesthetic’ and/or ‘Having a local anaesthetic / sedation’.
Risks and benefits
Ear lobe correction is commonly performed and safe surgery which almost invariably gives immense satisfaction to patients (and parents) alike. As with any surgical procedure there are certain side effects and risks that can occasionally occur. These will be discussed in detail with your surgeon on more than one occasion, initially in general terms at the time of the first outpatient consultation in order to allow you to make a fully informed decision about whether to proceed with surgery. There will also be other opportunities to discuss the pros and cons, either during a subsequent consultation, or just before the operation.
- Improved cosmetic appearance of ear lobes
- Improved confidence arising from above
- Bleeding from the wound
- Infection – this can be a skin infection or infection of the cartilage of the ear which may necessitate antibiotic treatment
- Haematoma (blood clot) beneath the skin – this will require drainage
- Irregularities on the surface of the ears
- Asymmetry of the ears
- Scar problems – redness, unsightly
- Unsuitable appearance of the ears
- Reaction to the anaesthetic
Preparing for the operation
Please see information sheet ‘Preparing for your operation’
About the operation
Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon will make cuts behind the ear lobes. Depending on the operation required, the ear lobes will either be repaired or reduced in size. The skin is then closed with either dissolvable sutures or biological skin glue. A dressing or bandage may be required to maintain pressure on both ears. The operation usually takes 45 minutes.
After the operation
You will be taken from the operating theatre to the recovery room where the anaesthetic will wear off. Then you will go back to your room on the ward where you will rest. A nurse will maintain close supervision and will check your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. You will be given painkillers for the first few days although the operation should not generally cause much discomfort, and possible also antibiotics. You can begin to eat and drink when you feel comfortable to do so, starting with fluids, and get up and out of bed once the nurse is happy with your progress.
If your operation was planned as a day case, you will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home.
Recovery at home
It is advisable not to drive, drink alcohol, sign legal documents or operate heavy machinery for 48 hours after the operation as the general anaesthetic can affect concentration, co-ordination, awareness and motor skills.
Your ears will feel sore but should not be acutely painful. Continue to take painkillers as advised by the hospital. In general the operation does not cause significant pain so simple analgesics are usually sufficient. If you experience severe pain or an increase in pain a few days later, please contact the hospital or your surgeon for advice. You may need to be seen again by your surgeon to ensure that there are no problems.
The amount of time you should take off work will vary according to the nature of the operation and whether you had a general anaesthetic. Please consult your surgeon for advice regarding when to return to work or school and to resume leisure activities. In particular swimming should be avoided until you have been given the all clear.
Please contact the hospital if you experience increasing pain in either ear which is not relieved by painkillers, or if you develop a fever.
Your surgeon will arrange to see you approximately two weeks after the operation. At this stage the ear lobes will look quite swollen and possibly bruised but nevertheless you should still be able to notice the improvements in the ears even at this early stage.