Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)

  • What is an Otoplasty?
  • How is an Otoplasty performed?
  • Where are the incisions placed?
  • What kind of anesthesia is recommended during an Otoplasty?
  • What can I expect after an Otoplasty?
  • How long will an Otoplasty last?
  • When is it the right time for an Otoplasty?
  • An Otoplasty is a surgical procedure to reshape the ears.
  • Different techniques and approaches are available to reshape congenital prominence in the ears or to restore damaged ears.
  • Most of the time individuals seek an otoplasty to set back prominent ears that project too much from the side of the head.
  • An Otoplasty corrects the shape of the cartilage and repositions the cartilage to create a more natural shape in the folds of the ear. It also corrects the position of the ear relative to the side of the head.
  • A dumbbell-shaped incision is made along the back of the ear in the small fold of skin between the ear and the side of the head.
  • The skin and soft tissues are then elevated from the underlying cartilage and the cartilage is folded to create the typical folds found within the normal human ear.
  • The ear is then pinned back to the side of the head using special stitches.
  • The skin incision is then closed with dissolvable stitches.
  • The ears are dressed with a mold-type dressing to protect their new shape and position. The goal is to prevent forward displacement of the ears while they heal. Most surgeons prefer to have this dressing stay in place for 3 to 5 days and a removable type band after this initial period.
  • With very rare exceptions, all incisions may be placed in the crease behind the ear and consequently will not be easily visible.
  • Depending on the patient’s age and comfort level, twilight anesthesia (local anesthesia with sedation) or general anesthesia may be used.
  • Young children and anxious adults would be best served with general anesthesia, whereas others have an option between the two types
  • There will be a compression dressing placed around the ears immediately following surgery. This is necessary to help decrease the swelling over the new contours of the ear cartilage. This dressing contains a special mold created to protect the new shape of the ears during the initial healing process.
  • The pain is generally mild and is relatively equal on both sides. Excessive pain on one side relative to the other may be an indication of bleeding and warrants immediate evaluation.
  • Upon removing the dressing, the ears will be swollen and discolored. Although the appearance of the ears at this point will give some indication as to the final post-operative result, the ears will look far more natural during the following 2 to 4 weeks. It takes approximately one year to see the final results.
  • Patients may experience some numbness along the outer edge of the ears for the first 1-2 months. This is normal and results from cutting across some of the small nerves going into the skin. Over time, these nerves re-grow and sensation is usually fully recovered.
  • In general, an otoplasty achieves the cartilage and shape changes required for the long-term. However, cartilage has memory and there is potential that the repair may not hold allowing the prominent ear to recur.
  • The ideal time to perform an otoplasty for correction of prominent ears is during childhood as the ears are nearly fully developed by five or six years of age.
  • From a social and psychological standpoint, most surgeons recommend performing an otoplasty prior to the child attending school in order to avoid possible potential social ridicule by other children.
  • Many people do not seek repair of prominent ears until adulthood. There are generally no additional major risks associated with ear surgery in adults.
Illustrations of Procedure