Ask the Expert: My child's ears stick out – does he need surgery to pin them back?
Q: MY eight-year-old son's ears really stick out and I'm worried he'll get bullied about them. Would it be a good idea for him to have an operation to pin them back now?
A: Consultant plastic surgeon David Gateley, of DRG Plastic Surgery (drg-plasticsurgery.co.uk) in Harley Street, London, says: "As a parent, you're bound to want the best for your child but it's important to remember that you may be projecting your concern unnecessarily. The first thing I would suggest is to listen to what your child wants. Establish their feelings in all this. They may not be bothered by their ears, in which case there's probably no need for a cosmetic corrective procedure. Or at least, not right now.
"The risks around childhood surgery are higher so, ideally, procedures should be stalled until adolescence, unless they're pushing for this constantly. When children are four to six years old, the role of the anaesthetist becomes almost more important than the surgeon, due to the potential risks involved. If very young children are about to undergo surgery, parents need to be comfortable where the surgery's being done and whether there are paediatricians on site, for support.
"It's also sensible to assess whether your expectations for the outcome of a surgical procedure are realistic. There are always very real risks and downsides to surgery, both in terms of the initial recovery and the final aesthetic outcome.
"If you do decide to progress with corrective surgery, you must be very careful which surgeon you choose. As well as assessing their qualifications, it's a good idea to meet the surgeon – you need to feel very comfortable that they'll be operating on your child.
"As a surgeon with children myself, I've been very lucky in that I have a network of colleagues I know I can trust and who can look after my family. For the general public who don't have this luxury, some useful things to look out for are: The surgeon must be registered with the General Medical Council and on their specialist register of plastic surgeons, qualified for paediatric surgery specifically, and have passed child safeguarding checks.
"If the surgeon practises or has practised in the NHS – this is not always a guarantee of quality, but generally these surgeons are under [or have been under] a greater level of scrutiny. Seek recommendations and advice from your GP, and personal recommendations are important, so speak to the parents of previous patients."