I have hated my ears for as long as I can remember...
I went through school and university sporadically researching otoplasty, but both the cost and the procedure itself put me off. Traditional otoplasty presented itself as a difficult surgery with a messy and long recovery period – and for a squeamish person who is terrified of blood and needles, I instantly shied away. Plus, even though the UK has a nationalised health service, it was highly unlikely that I'd get the 'cosmetic' operation for free. I thought that I was stuck with my ears for life until, at age 22, I found a new surgical option: EarFold.
The EarFold surgery claimed to be quick, minimalist, done under local anaesthetic, and to have a short recovery time (you can go back to work the next day!). It sounded too good to be true, so of course I was a little suspicious. I started Googling the procedure and found a lot of literature but hardly any patient reviews. However, I put this down to the fact the clinical trials for EarFold ended only 18 months ago.
After reading up about EarFold extensively, I got very excited and emailed the hospital straight away about booking a consultation. I waited for 6 months, and in May 2014, I met my surgeon to discuss the procedure. (It's worth noting here that EarFold is not offered on the NHS, meaning that I had to pursue the procedure privately. However, a combination of starting work and having surprising sympathetic parents allowed me to do this.)
At the consultation, my surgeon explained that not everyone is suitable for EarFold as the implant cannot correct all ear shapes. After this disclaimer, he examined my ears and fitted some pre-surgical 'clips' to see how the EarFold implant would look. They looked like small metal semi-circles and were clipped onto my ears to see how they would affect the shape. We played around with the clips until the surgeon was happy. I looked in the mirror and as cheesy as it sounds, felt a bit overwhelmed by how much better I looked already. Luckily, my ears were eligible for EarFold and we decided to go ahead with the surgery.
On the day of the procedure, I headed to the hospital with my mum. At 3pm exactly I entered the 'minor procedures room' and my surgeon repeated the consultation process with the pre-surgical clips. He positioned them on my ear, I confirmed I was happy and he marked with pen where the implants were going to go. At this point, the nurse started prepping the table and instruments and anxiety began to flood my brain. I made the executive decision to not look at any of the surgical tools as I knew it would probably only make things worse!
Now for the surgery. I lay down on the bed and was covered in a blue surgical cover. My surgeon came over and told me to get ready for the local anaesthetic, which he said would sting a bit. I've had a few anaesthetics before and didn't find them to be too painful, but this one really did sting. Perhaps because it's in the cartilage and there is little fat or padding – but yes, it stung. After the numbing, we waited for a few minutes and then the surgery started. My surgeon said I wouldn't even know he'd started – and it's true, I didn't – but that didn’t hold for the entire thing. EarFold obviously involves putting implants in the ears and, accordingly, a fair bit of pulling around, so the sensation for the majority of the operation was like someone was pulling and crumpling my ears (but with no pain).After just 20 minutes the operation was done and I'd been stitched up.
In retrospect, the immediate few hours after the surgery were the calm before the storm – my ears felt fine, apart from a tiny bit of tenderness. However, come 8.30pm and my ears starting hurting... a lot. EarFold literature says that post op pain is usually mild enough to be dealt with by over the counter painkillers, but from my experience, I completely disagree with this. I was in a lot of pain for about 36 hours, which I took a mixture of paracetamol and codeine to combat. For the next 48 hours, I was still in enough pain to regularly take painkillers, but it wasn't as intense as before. It took five nights until I could comfortably sleep on my side again. The swelling and bruising was also particularly pronounced for the first 3 days after surgery. The immediate two days after the operation my ears were very swollen and bruised purple. I couldn't see the folds in my ears as they were bruised so much! However, after about 4 or 5 days, and the swelling had gone down quite a lot and pain was only felt if I caught my ears with my hand or with my hairbrush. It’s also worth noting here that I was allowed to shower and wash my hair almost immediately after surgery, so no waiting 7 days to shampoo your hair like traditional otoplasty.
At the time of writing this review, it’s been 5 weeks since I had the EarFold surgery. I’ve had no post op infections or bleeding, and my ears have almost completely recovered now (apart from a slight bruise on the left one, possibly from me hitting it while asleep or something). It took a good 3-4 weeks to be able to comfortably sleep on my side again and the implant site is still sensitive to being touched or knocked, but my ears look wonderful and I have been wearing my hair up nearly every day. I went swimming a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing to be able to just throw my hair in a bun and not be racked with anxiety about people seeing my ears through wet hair.
I really want to share my experience with people considering this surgery as I remember finding no patient reviews when I was researching it. The biggest problem for me was experiencing more pain than expected immediately after surgery, but make sure you have some good painkillers and ice packs and you should be ok. Aftercare consultations aren't mandatory, and since my ears feel fine I have not had one. On the whole, I had a very positive experience with EarFold and with my surgeon.
-Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead- My surgeon was very friendly and professional. He was patient and very transparent when describing EarFold. He chatted to me throughout the procedure about random crap to ease my nerves, which I appreciated a lot! I had planned to travel over the summer and assumed that due to the demand of EarFold, I would have to wait until the end of 2014, but my surgeon was super nice and fitted me in just two weeks after my consultation!