Scar-free ear pinning (incision-free pinnaplasty)

11 year old Matthew Bekkers from Upminster was the first patient to undergo incision-free pinnaplasty at Spire Hartswood Hospital by consultant ENT surgeon, Mr George Fayad in March 2010. Matt and his parents, Alan and Trudy Bekkers, talked with us about their experience.

When did you first start investigating treatment for Matt?

Alan:  When Matt was about nine, he started getting teased at school because his ears were quite prominent. He would wear his hair long and pull it over his ears to try to cover them up. We said to him to wait a while and if it really troubled him, we would do something about it.

I started looking at treatment options on the Internet and found a hospital in Tenerife offering a non-surgical treatment which looked interesting. But it was a long way to go and we were concerned about the distance if there were any problems afterwards. So we looked closer to home and found that he could have the operation at Spire Hartswood, which is the nearest private hospital to our home in Upminster.

At the beginning of 2010 we started looking seriously. Matt was nearly 11 and the problem was affecting his confidence. He was worried that the teasing might get worse when he went to secondary school in September. We contacted The Hartswood who told us that Mr Fayad had just started offering the scar-free procedure so we spoke to Mr Fayad’s secretary, Jackie, to find out more about it.

How did you make the decision to go ahead?

Trudy: We came for a consultation with Mr Fayad and he explained all about the procedure. He was very caring and Matt decided he wanted it done.  We chose a date just before Easter so that Matt would be able to go back to school straight after the Easter holiday. 

Matt, how did you feel immediately before the operation?

Matt:  I was quite nervous as I had to wait in my room with my Mum and Dad before the operation. I wasn’t scared about the operation itself but I was a bit scared about the anaesthetic and having the cannula* put into my arm. Actually, it was OK though and I don’t remember the anaesthetic bit at all. 
* tube inserted into a vein in the arm to carry drugs during and after the operation

Trudy:  I went with him to the anaesthetic room and everything happened so quickly that Matt was asleep before I knew it!

What happened when you got back to your room after the operation?

Matt: The nurses Loraine and Fiona looked after me and they brought me a jacket potato and a coke as I was starving and very thirsty! They kept coming in to see if I was alright. Also, I became really good at working the electronic bed in my room!

How long did you stay in hospital?

Trudy: The operation was in the evening and we stayed for one night. I was able to stay in the room with Matt which was a good thing as the first night was painful for him. We went home the next day with the bandages still on. Matt had to take painkillers for three days but, by the second night, the pain had reduced by about 50%. 

Matt found the bandages very hot so it was a relief to be able to take them off after two days. Matt’s ears were swollen for about two weeks with some blistering, but we knew this was an expected part of the healing process and that it would take a few months for the swelling to subside completely. The main thing was that we could see immediately the bandages were removed that the operation was a success!

Did you have to take any special precautions after the operation?

Alan: Matt couldn’t go swimming for two weeks and he has to wear a headband at night for six months. This is to stop him bending his ears forward when he’s asleep. We were also told he would have to avoid any contact sports but this wasn’t a problem as his main sport is cross country running. 

How did you feel when you went back to school after the Easter holiday?

Matt: I felt much happier than I had before. I only told a few of my friends and some people said I looked different but I don’t think they could work out why! Now, when my friends are going to the park, I’m really keen to go with them. Before the operation, I would make myself go with them but I didn’t really want to.

Alan and Trudy: Even just four weeks after the operation, Matt’s self-confidence has increased and he’s much happier. He’ll be going to Hall Mead School in Upminster in September and now we feel he’ll be much better placed to take advantage of everything that his new school has to offer. We would like to say thank you to Mr Fayad.  He was very caring and reassuring. He even phoned from abroad over Easter to make sure Matt was OK.

What advice would you give to another family thinking in a similar situation?

Matt: I’d say “go for it and don’t be afraid”. It doesn’t really hurt for long. After the bandage is taken off you might think “what have they done to my ears” but that’s because they’re so swollen.
Alan and Trudy: You read on the Internet that there is no pain with this operation and that’s not really true. But, it’s a huge gain for not too much pain and we are all delighted with the results.

Mr George Fayad comments on the new technique of incision-free pinnaplasty

Protruding ears, or "bat ears", could be a major social problem for some children or adolescents. Many children with this problem suffer from harassment at school or in the playground. In some cases the problem is so bad that it could adversely affect the psychological or even the physical well-being of the child.

There have been reported cases of bat ears making some children more prone to injury, particularly whilst playing contact sports.

The only way to correct bat ears is with surgery known as pinnaplasty. Conventional pinnaplasty carries certain risks and, occasionally, quite severe complications. Excessive healing, for example, sometimes results in cosmetic deformities of the ear. The patient may perceive these as worse than the initial problem. 

Recently an "incision-free" technique has been developed and widely used by an American surgeon from Indiana. Although this technique is not risk-free, it is much less invasive, leads to fewer complications and generally produces an excellent result.

I have been offering incision-free pinnaplasty since 2009 and have found that my patients are extremely happy with this new technique. Matt’s story is a good example of the success of this new operation. I am confident that more and more patients will benefit from the technique in the future.