Otoplasty – Ear Surgery
Overview - Otoplasty
Otoplasty — also known as cosmetic ear surgery — is a procedure to change the shape, position or size of the ears.
You might choose to have otoplasty if you’re bothered by how far your ears stick out from your head. You might also consider otoplasty if your ear or ears are misshapen due to an injury or birth defect.
Otoplasty can be done at any age after the ears have reached their full size — usually after age 5 — through adulthood. In some cases, the surgery is done as early as age 3.
If a child is born with prominent ears and certain other ear-shape problems, splinting may successfully correct these issues if started immediately after birth.
Why it's done
You might consider otoplasty if:
- Your ear or ears stick out too far from your head
- Your ears are large in proportion to your head
- You’re dissatisfied with a previous ear surgery
- Otoplasty is typically done on both ears to optimize symmetry.
Otoplasty can be done at any age after the ears have reached their full size — usually after age 5.
Otoplasty won’t change the location of your ears or alter your ability to hear.
Otoplasty poses various risks, including:
- Scarring. While scars are permanent, they’ll likely be hidden behind your ears or within the creases of your ears.
- Asymmetry in ear placement. This could occur as a result of changes during the healing process. Also, surgery might not successfully correct pre-existing asymmetry.
- Changes in skin sensation. During otoplasty, the repositioning of your ears can temporarily affect skin sensation in the area. Rarely, changes are permanent.
- Problems with stitches. Stitches used to secure the ear’s new shape might work their way to the surface of the skin and need to be removed. This can cause inflammation of the affected skin. As a result, you might need additional surgery.
- Overcorrection. Otoplasty can create unnatural contours that make ears appear to be pinned back.
How you prepare
A consultation for otoplasty
Initially, you’ll talk to a cosmetic surgeon about otoplasty. During your first visit, your cosmetic surgeon will likely:
Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions, especially any ear infections. Talk about any medications you’re taking or you’ve taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.
Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your ears — including their placement, size, shape and symmetry. The doctor might also take pictures of your ears for your medical record.
Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want otoplasty and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the risks, such as possible overcorrection.
If you’re a good candidate for otoplasty, your doctor may recommend that you take some steps to prepare beforehand.
What you can expect
Otoplasty can be done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility.
Sometimes the procedure is done with sedation and local anesthesia, which numbs only part of your body. In other cases, general anesthesia — which renders you unconscious — may be given before your procedure.
After your bandages are removed, you’ll notice an immediate change in the appearance of your ears. These changes are permanent.
If you’re not satisfied with your results, check with your surgeon about the possibility of revision surgery.