For most patients, recovery after rib cartilage ear reconstruction is relatively short. In general, patients are able to return to light activities after about three days. Dr. Charles Thorne routinely performs rib cartilage ear reconstruction for patients in the New York, NY, area. Two surgeries are typically required to achieve the final result for this type of surgery. Generally, Dr. Thorne recommends a six month healing period between the two procedures. Patients can return to normal activities about three weeks after the final surgery and contact sports six weeks after. Carefully following post-operative instructions can help ensure the best results for you or your child.
Knowing what to expect throughout the recovery process is an important aspect of your treatment.
Most patients have pain in the chest donor site for several days. In addition, they may feel sleepy or groggy after their ear reconstruction surgery due to the anesthesia. Patients generally spend two nights in the hospital and are then discharged. We may attach drains and drainage tubes (like the ones used when you have blood drawn) to the site and leave them in place for a few days.
Dr. Thorne recommends not placing any dressings or headbands on the newly constructed ear. Simply leave it open to the air and apply a small amount of Bacitracin ointment. You can shower normally after about a week, as long as Dr. Thorne believes the healing is progressing adequately.
You will need to attend regular follow-up appointments with Dr. Thorne so he can monitor your progress and provide any additional care. Patients are usually seen about five days after surgery for drain removal and again about two weeks after the procedure for suture removal.
As a general rule, patients may shower after one week, participate in normal activities after three weeks and return to full contact sports about six weeks after surgery.
Most rib cartilage ear reconstruction patients require an additional procedure to elevate the ear and achieve a normal, balanced effect. During the second surgery, Dr. Thorne will use skin and cartilage grafts to lift the ear away from the head, so it properly matches the other ear.
Patients only require about another four to six weeks to heal from this procedure. Once the ear is fully reconstructed and the grafts heal, patients can resume all their normal activities, including sports, swimming, and physical education classes. Since rib cartilage ear reconstruction uses the patient’s own natural tissue, the healing process should be relatively comfortable and result in a lifelike, symmetrical appearance.
Recovery after rib cartilage ear reconstruction requires careful supervision. With proper care and regular visits to Dr. Thorne, this procedure can transform an ear affected by microtia or another ear deformity and create a natural-looking, balanced result. To learn more about recovering from ear reconstruction, contact our office online or call (212) 794-0044 today.
Dr. Thorne is the Editor-in-Chief and the author of several chapters in Grabb and Smith's PLASTIC SURGERY, 7th Edition.
Ear Construction Chapter in PDF