Improving a Child's Self-Esteem Through Otoplasty

While it is often best to wait until children's bodies have stopped growing before performing plastic surgery on them, one procedure that can be done as early as age 5 is otoplasty.

When a patient feels self-conscious about his or her body, it can affect not only self-esteem, but also the ability to fit in comfortably with social groups. This can hold even more truth whenever the person in question is a child.

While it is often best to wait until children's bodies have stopped growing before performing plastic surgery on them, one procedure that can be done as early as age 5 is otoplasty.

Otoplasty is a procedure to correct large and/or protruding ears. By reshaping the ears, the surgery brings better symmetry to a patient’s face by “pinning” the ears back or visually reducing their size.

While the patient will experience mild discomfort following the surgery, recovery from an otoplasty is minimal. In other words, the procedure will do little to disrupt the patient’s life in the short term, while the long-term results can be life changing. In the case of children, otoplasty can significantly boost their self-image and ability to adapt to school and other social environments more easily, as well as reduce the chances of bullying associated with their ears. Names such as “Dumbo” can quickly become a thing of the past.

Although this surgery is appropriate for anyone school-aged and up, I highly recommend that patients undergo this procedure earlier rather than later. Although adult patients can experience great results from an otoplasty surgery, the sooner the procedure is done, the better. This is because ear cartilage is less firm and easier to work with at a younger age, which allows for better sculpting. Also, the procedure’s added psychological benefits for children can make a significant impact on their long-term development.

When it comes time for your patients to consider an otoplasty procedure, it is important to ensure their decision is made for the right reasons, especially among children. Making sure the patient or his or her guardian considers the psychological state of the child and how the procedure will impact him or her is just as important as the physical results.

As with any cosmetic surgery, educating patients about the procedure is the key to success and will hopefully get them even more excited about their new ears.

Robert T. Grant, MD, MSc, FACS, is Chief of the combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. For more information about Dr. Grant or to contact him, visit his website at www.robertgrantmd.com.