Otoplasty or ear reshaping is a surgical (or non-surgical) procedure for correcting the deformities and defects of the pinna (external ear). Otoplasty may also be referred to as ear pinning or ear reshaping and is commonly used to treat protruding ears, to reduce the size of large ears or to reconstruct a deformed or defective ear.
The surgery can be done on patients whose ears have fully developed, which is usually starts from the age of 5. It is the only type of plastic surgery that is performed more often in children than in adults.
The surgery is usually performed on both ears, in order to ensure they are proportional to the face and even and symmetrical.
For many years people have been choosing to have ear reshaping surgery to increase their self-confidence.
There are three main types of otoplasty:
- Ear augmentation is needed if the pinna is underdeveloped or non-existent, known as microtia.
- Otopexy, an ear pinback, “flattens” protruding ears.
- Ear reduction can reduce the pinna when it is too big. When the ears are too large, this is called macrotia.
|Number of days in hospital||1 Overnight stay not required.|
|Average length of stay abroad||3 days|
|Surgery duration||1 to 2 hours|
Adults can undergo surgery with intravenous sedation supplemented with local anesthesia. In children, general anesthesia is used.
Though recovery is unique for every patient, you can expect to return to work and any light activity after one week. In two weeks, your final results will be visible.
The ideal candidates for otoplasty procedure are people who have:
- Ears that protrude from the sides of the head
- Ears that fold over on top (lop ears)
- Ears that are asymmetrical (different sizes, different shapes)
- Ears that are overly large in proportion to the facial profile
- Ears that need repair due to injury or birth defects
Initially, you’ll have a consultation with your plastic surgeon about otoplasty. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
- Review your medical history.
- Do a physical exam.
- Discuss your expectations.
- Stop using all medications that increase bleeding and bruising two weeks before and after the surgery.
- Temporarily stop drinking red wine and alcohol about two weeks before and after the procedure.
- Avoid consuming nicotine in any form during the ten to 14 days prior to, and following your operation.
- Begin the instructed regimen a few hours before your surgery and continue for at least five days after the operation.
- Make plans for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you for the first night of your recovery.
If you must deviate from any of your pre-surgery instructions for any reason, inform your surgery team immediately.
During the surgery
Ear reshaping techniques could be different based on what kind of correction is needed. The specific technique your plastic surgeon selects will define the location of the incisions and the resulting scars. He/she might make incisions:
- On the backs of your ears
- Within the inner creases of your ears
The surgeon may remove excess cartilage and skin once the incision has been made. He or she will then fold the cartilage into the proper position and secure it with internal stitches. and the incision site will also be closed with stitches. There is a thin scar, but it is localized behind the ear and out of view and will fade away over time until it becomes, in most cases, barely noticeable.
After the surgery
Right after the ear surgery, there will be pain and discomfort which is normal and will be controlled with pain medication. There may also be an itchy feeling under bandages. After the procedure, the ears will be dressed with bandages. It is essential that bandages remain intact and not removed for any reason. Failure to do so may result in loss of some of the correction and need of another surgery. Follow all of your surgeon’s instructions.
The surgeon will recommend not washing hair for the first 3 to 7 days. Patients may continue to wear a protective headband at night after the bandage has been removed. Avoid swimming for 2 months after the surgery, and any contact sports such as judo or rugby for 3 months. It is important not to subject the surgical incisions to excessive force, sunlight or tanning bed light, abrasion or motion during the time of the healing process.
Post-surgical numbness may continue for several weeks, and mild bruising may be present for two weeks and the ears may feel stiff for several months. Soreness, particularly at night, can last for a few months.
Risks and benefits
Benefits of ear reshaping
- It’s a relatively safe procedure
- A new variety in sports and careers
- Reposition the ears so they lay flatter against the sides of the head
- Reduces the prominence of excessively large ears
- Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
- Wider choice of hairstyles
- Makes people feel ‘normal’ again
- Stop unfriendly comments
The Risks of ear reshaping
Otoplasty poses some risks:
- Ear placement Asymmetry
- Changes in skin sensation
- Problems with stitches
- Infection of skin or cartilage
Like any other type of major surgery, otoplasty poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to the surgical tape or other materials used during or after the procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can I shower?
You can shower the next day as long as your head is kept dry. The ears may get wet after 7-10 days. Baths are not a good idea until 3 weeks after surgery to keep your swelling down.
What are the potential complications?
All surgeries have a bit of risk, but these are usually minimal for ear reshaping. They include bleeding, infection, poor healing, areas of numbness, thickened scarring behind the ear, and visualization of the cartilage edge that has been cut to reshape the ear. One of the most problematic complications occurs if the ear is pulled upon before properly healed. If this happens, the shape will be altered.
Are there any scars after the procedure?
The incision made for otoplasty will not be noticeable after fully healing.
When is the optimal time for my surgery?
Being in the best shape, mentally and physically with optimal skin health is recommended. Often this surgery is performed on 5-year-olds and up. By the time the child is 5, the ear is almost fully grown. The determining factor is the ability to cooperate after the procedure. We want to reshape the ears prior to any possible psychological problems developing; therefore, earlier is better than later. However, adults that have had otoplasty surgery are extremely happy with their new look.
Is otoplasty painful?
Most patients experience some mild discomfort the first night after the surgery which will be controlled with mild pain killers.
How soon after otoplasty can I go to the gym?
Patients can resume their exercises, 3 weeks after the otoplasty surgery.
When are the stitches removed after the otoplasty procedure?
The stitches are removed in about one week after otoplasty. Absorbable sutures will dissolve on their own.