Dumbo. Bat ears. Mr. Spock. Kids can be cruel, and children who grew up with prominent ears have probably heard all the schoolyard taunts. Not surprisingly, this constant teasing can take its toll on a child’s self-esteem, with poor self-image lasting into adulthood for an estimated half of those affected. Children and adults born with ears shaped outside the norm have always had two choices: take the teasing or go under the knife. Given the potential risks of any surgery, that is a difficult choice for anyone to make.
With an estimated five percent of the population having an ear malformation, and one or two percent having prominent ears, it is a problem that has caught the attention of medical device makers. Now one of the most well-known aesthetics companies has introduced a device that can solve the problem of prominent ears without the use of surgery.
The Earfold Device
British plastic surgeon Norbert Kang developed the device, later acquired by Allergan who are best known for their Botox and Juvederm wrinkle-fighting injectables. Earfold is made of medical-grade nitinol, which is a special nickel and titanium alloy often used in stents and other medical devices. Nitinol is special because it is a shape memory alloy, a metal that tends to retain its original shape. This means that even if a plastic surgeon inserts the device through one incision, once it is in place, it will snap back to its original shape, folding the ear with it.
The doctor will begin by clipping the special Pre-Fold device onto the outside of the patient’s ear. This allows the surgeon to determine the correct position while allowing the patient to see what the final results look like. Once both doctor and patient agree the ear position looks satisfactory, the doctor cleans the ear with an antiseptic solution, applies a local anesthetic to numb the area, and makes a one centimeter incision in the ear’s skin. After lifting the skin away from the cartilage, the doctor then uses the special introducer to position and release the Earfold implant. Once the device is under the patient’s skin, it springs back to its predetermined shape, gripping the cartilage to adjust its shape to match the device. Including stitches and applying a dressing, the entire procedure takes about twenty minutes. The device is able to reposition the ear as much as 34 percent closer to the patient’s head.
With the Earfold device, what used to involve time off work and going under the knife is now accomplished with a quick in-clinic procedure. Children over the age of seven and adults can all have the procedure, and the results should be permanent with only a nominal risk the prominent ears will recur. That said, the procedure can be reversible if a doctor removes the implant.
Non-surgical Otoplasty Does Have its Limitations
Although this procedure can be beneficial, it does have some limitations. The device is most suitable for patients whose antihelical fold is poorly developed or completely absent. Those whose ears are prominent because of a deep conchal bowl may only experience partial success using Earfold, although they can still opt for additional otoplasty surgery to complete the correction. For those who are eligible for Earfold, it does offer a less-invasive alternative for ear correction, with a relatively quick procedure.
A minimally-invasive procedure carries less risk than plastic surgery but it does have its risks. With any incision, there is a risk of infection, so doctors will usually prescribe a preventative course of antibiotics as well as schedule a follow-up appointment to check healing. There will be a small scar where the implant was inserted, but this will carry a much smaller risk of keloid scarring than traditional corrective ear surgery. After an Earfold procedure, there can also be some pain and discomfort, swelling, bruising, and minor bleeding, but these usually resolve within a few days to a week. The Earfold recipient should take some precautions after their procedure, including avoiding sleeping on their ears for the first few weeks, avoiding contact sports for at least the first month, avoiding wearing earrings for about two weeks, and being cautious when using mobile phones.
Traditional Otoplasty Techniques
Traditionally, otoplasty involved sculpting cartilage and using sutures to shape the ear into a less-prominent position. The surgery is complex and invasive, usually taking about 45 to 60 minutes to complete per ear. Even when an expert plastic surgeon performs the operation, it can result in asymmetrical ears and prominence can recur when stitches fail.
Other Nonsurgical Ear-Shaping Techniques
Two other non-surgical techniques are available: Earbuddies and Sorribes, also known as AuriMethod. These use a variety of splints or plasters on the outside of the ear, over the course of two weeks to six months, to deform the cartilage. However, the patient must continue to wear the devices correctly to completely fix the prominent ear shape. As well, the treatments rely on cartilage being easier to remodel in young children, so the technique only works for children up to about the age of five. After this, the ear cartilage becomes thick, stiff, and unresponsive to external forces from these devices, and these techniques no longer work. Earfold, in contrast, works on children over the age of seven to full-grown adults of any age.
Non-invasive Ear Correction Opportunities
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons statistics for 2016, there were 23,709 otoplasty surgeries in the U.S. This may be only about ten percent of the number of breast augmentation surgeries, but it is still a significant number of people seeking help for their prominent ears. Instead of surgery, many of these otoplasty patients could have been helped by a minimally-invasive Earfold procedure. Adding Earfold to your medical spa’s options could help countless people who have been teased about their prominent ears regain their self-esteem and leave their days of bullying behind.
To learn more or to purchase the Earfold Implantable Clip System for your medical spa, visit MedicalSpaRX.com now.