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Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)

Ear surgery – also known as otoplasty – can improve the shape, position or proportion of the ear. It can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth, or it can treat misshapen ears caused by injury.

What is Otoplasty?

Cosmetic surgery of the ear, or otoplasty, is an aesthetic procedure that alters the size, position, or proportion of the ears. The outcome of ear reshaping surgery varies greatly depending on the changes that are desired, but these procedures generally improve self-confidence, especially in children and teenagers. If the ears stick out, ear pinning can be performed to flatten the ears against the head. If one ear is positioned higher than the other, ear repositioning can create symmetry. Large, oversized ears can be addressed alone or in conjunction with other ear issues.

otoplastyOtoplasty can correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth that becomes apparent with development or it can treat misshapen ears caused by injury.

Ear surgery creates a natural shape, while bringing balance and proportion to the ears and face. Correction of even minor deformities can have profound benefits to appearance and self-esteem.

If protruding or disfigured ears bother you or your child, you may consider plastic surgery.

Specifically ear surgery can treat:

  • Overly large ears — a rare condition called macrotia
  • Protruding ears occurring on one or both sides in varying degrees — not associated with hearing loss
  • Adult dissatisfaction with previous ear surgery:
  • Lop ear (ear tip folds down and trends forward)
  • Shell ear (certain features of a normal ear are missing, such as the curve in the outer rim and other natural folds)
  • Abnormally large ear lobes

Am I a good candidate for ear surgery?

The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider ear surgery:

  • If your ears have reached their full size, which usually happens around age six. Children are common patients for this procedure.
  • A set-back otoplasty, which is a procedure to reduce the prominence of ears that stick out too much, can be performed on adults as well as children.

If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.

How It’s Done

downloadThe good news is that medical advancements have made it much easier to undergo an otoplasty. Currently, there are several ways the ear can be reshaped. One involves cutting out the cartilage (the main structural component) of the ear. Another involves folding and stitching that cartilage instead of cutting it away. In the latter scenario, skin is cut away instead of cartilage. In either case, your surgeon will begin by making a small incision at the back of your ear, allowing access the cartilage for the necessary procedure. After the surgery is complete, the incision site will be secured with stitches.

What To Expect and How To Prepare

earbaIn your consultation, you will be able to discuss all your expectations with your surgeon. Together, you can decide which option is best for you or your child. You should plan to stay home at least one week after the surgery; for children, they should stay home from school for at least one week.

The actual surgery will last about two to three hours, depending on the complexity of the procedure for your particular case. Again, if your situation requires a more complex procedure, it may take even longer than three hours. Your surgeon will detail all of this for you.

If you are an adult, your surgeon probably will use local anesthesia with a sedative. A child will likely receive general anesthesia (put to sleep) to ensure that he or she cannot move around during the operation.

If the patient is receiving general anesthesia, he or she cannot eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery or the morning of the surgery. The last meal the night before should be very light.

Most otoplasties are performed in the surgeon’s office or in an outpatient facility.

You should be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Do not wear a shirt with a restrictive collar. Ideally, you should wear a button down shirt that you do not have to pull over your head. This is especially important for children, to avoid any unnecessary impact to the surgery site.

If you are an adult, the surgery will be completed within a few hours and you can go home the same day. It’s a good idea to have someone with you who can drive you home and stay with you the first night. Sometimes, in the case of children, the doctor will prefer that they stay in the hospital one night. If you are undergoing a more complex procedure as an adult, you also may be required to stay in the hospital overnight.


When you are sent home, your head will be bandaged. It’s very important that you follow your doctor’s instructions on how to handle the bandage to ensure a smooth recovery.

You will have to wear your bandage for at least three days, if not more. Your surgeon will instruct you on how long you will be required to wear it and how to best manage it while you sleep. When you have the first bandage removed by your surgeon, he or she will provide you with a headband-type dressing. Your surgeon may want you to keep this on for up to three weeks to promote proper healing.

If you have stitches that need to be taken out, your surgeon will do this about one week after the surgery.

You will have scars at the incision site. However, these probably will fade over time.

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