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Meatoplasty

Side view of the head showing mastoid bone, ear, and inner ear structures.

Meatoplasty is a type of ear surgery. It is done on the meatus (opening into the ear canal). The surgery may be needed to widen the opening. Or it may be needed to help the meatus line up better with the ear canal. This helps keep the ear canal from getting blocked with wax and debris. It also helps reduce the risk of ear infections. 

Preparing for surgery

Prepare for the procedure as you have been instructed. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs. It also includes herbs and other supplements. You may need to stop taking some or all of them before surgery as directed by your healthcare provider. Also, follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before surgery.

The day of surgery

The surgery takes about 1 to 2 hours. You’ll likely go home on the same day. Before the surgery begins:

  • An IV line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line supplies fluids and medicines.

  • You’ll be given medicine (anesthesia) to keep you free of pain during the surgery. You may be given general anesthesia. This puts you into a state like deep sleep during the surgery. Or you may be given sedation, which makes you relaxed and sleepy. In this case, local anesthesia is used to numb the area being worked on.

During the surgery

Here is what to expect during the surgery:

  • Incisions are made in and around the ear canal. Then tissue is removed or rearranged to make the ear opening larger.

  • The ear canal is filled with antibiotic ointment or fluid. This helps prevent infection. Packing (a special kind of dressing) may also be placed in the ear canal.

After the surgery

You’ll be taken to a room to wake up from the anesthesia. You’ll be given medicines to manage pain and prevent infection. If you have packing inside the ear canal, you may have trouble hearing out of that ear. This is not a sign of a problem. Be aware that you may have some dizziness after the surgery. This can last for a few days. When it’s time for you to be released from the hospital, have an adult family member or friend ready to drive you.

Recovering at home

Once at home, follow any special instructions you are given. Make sure to:

  • Take all medicines as directed. These may include eardrops and ear ointment.

  • Care for your incision and packing as instructed.

  • Place a cotton ball dabbed with a small amount of petroleum jelly in the outer ear before you bathe or shower. This helps keep your ear dry. Remove the cotton ball when you’re done bathing or showering.

  • Don't drive, climb stairs, or stand on ladders until any dizziness has passed.

  • Don't do any heavy lifting or strenuous activities for at least 2 weeks.

  • Don't swim fly in a plane, or travel in the mountains until your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

When to call your healthcare provider

Be sure you have a contact number for your healthcare provider. After you get home, call if you have:

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing (call 911)

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Bright red bleeding or foul-smelling drainage from your ear (some pink-tinged drainage is normal)

  • Increased redness or swelling around the ear

  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting that gets worse

  • Pain that cannot be controlled with medicines

Follow-up

During follow-up visits, your healthcare provider will check your healing. If your stitches or packing need to be removed, this may be done in about 7 to 10 days.

Risks and possible complications

Risks of this procedure include:

  • Bleeding or a collection of blood under the skin (hematoma)

  • Infection

  • Dizziness

  • Ringing in the ear

  • Scarring and other healing problems (these may need more surgery to repair)

  • Narrowing of the opening to the ear canal

  • Risks of anesthesia 

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