Q: Otoplasty Suture Complications
had otoplasty 8 years ago. For a few years behind my ear has been red and swollen and bleeds when touched too hard. There is also drainage. I’ve been too scared to see the doctor for these years but finally went. He found & removed a suture today, but he didn’t know if this was the one causing the problem. If it is the one, how long will it take for my ear to be healed? Also, could this have any long-term negative effects on me? I am very nervous.
A: Otoplasty surgery has a tremendous effect-spitting suture is OK
The otoplasty is a wonderful procedure and actually it is one of my favorites because it is a very artistic surgery. The surgeon must recreate the convexities & concavities of the ear to establish the normal form. Also, in most cases, the ear must be set back towards the scalp. Combining these two techniques, will allow the ear to set back in a normal position. In order to maintain the correction, it is necessary to use a suture that will never dissolve because the cartilage has “memory” to bounce back to original shape or position. The cartilage will not stay in the new position or shape unless a permanent suture is used. I will use a clear suture for this procedure to both hold the ear back and to create the curves of the ear. The other issue to understand is that the cartilage has a very limited blood supply which may delay healing, and the skin overlying the cartilage of the ear is quite thin. Therefore, it is not too surprising that the irritation that you have been experiencing over the past 8 years was due to a suture that needed to be removed. Most likely, the suture material was a little too shallow, or shifted so that it could irritate the skin from under neath. There should be no major concerns for you at this time, since the irritating suture has been removed. The area should heal now. You can apply ointment and saline compresses to the area in order to allow the area to heal over well. If you have ongoing problems, I recommend you be seen sooner than later. Many things can occur in a suture line, such as a cyst, keloid, hypertrophic scar etc. It is always best to be seen by the doctor who did the surgery, or if you are no longer near by, another Plastic Surgeon. It is better to treat the issue than to hope it goes away. Had you gone back to your doctor initially and been upfront with your problem & concerns, the stitch may have been removed 8 years ago and obviated all the ongoing discomfort. At this point, I recommend you continue to follow up with a Plastic Surgeon until the wound is fully healed, because a wound that has not healed over an extended period of time is at risk for other problems. If you are followed closely, you can address any other concerns or possible consequences of delayed wound healing. Best! Dr. Kimberley O’Sullivan