Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery, is a procedure used to correct, reshape, or reconstruct different parts of the ear. Although this procedure is most often used to correct cosmetic imperfections, it is also performed to correct developmental abnormalities from birth.
The term otoplasty is used to describe a variety of plastic surgeries performed on the ears. Procedures in this category can range from total reconstruction of the ear, to “ear pinning” to address protruding ears, to the minor correction of a torn ear lobe caused by earrings/gauges.
The most common reason patients seek otoplasty is to correct protuberant ears, or ears that stick out too far. Protuberant ears are most commonly caused by one of two things: the absence of an ear-cartilage fold (the small curved, inner ridge of the ear), which causes the ear to flop forward; or a cup-like cartilage bowl near the ear canal that causes the ear to project out excessively.
Otoplasty may be performed on adults or children as young as four or five years of age and who have full ear development. A healthy individual with protruding or asymmetric ears is a good candidate for this procedure.
Otoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure. The type of anesthesia and the actual procedure differs depending on what is being corrected.
To correct ears that stick out from the head, a small incision is made in the crease behind the ear, and the ear is folded back and set closer to the skull. Permanent sutures are then placed to create the desired appearance. This is often referred to as “ear pinning.”
Depending on the severity of the tear, the surgeon may be able to simply surgically close the hole. If the earlobe is severely damaged, other measures may be taken to reconstruct the earlobe. Patients are usually able to re-pierce the ears six months after this procedure. This surgery is often done under local anesthesia if the damage isn’t too severe.
Patients who have “gauged” ear lobes often require more extensive reconstruction. This may include flaps of earlobe tissue that is rearranged to reconstruct the earlobe.
Recovery following otoplasty typically takes 7-10 days. The day of surgery, patients will wear a bulky head dressing. This will be replaced with a lighter headband, which patients will wear for the next several days. We recommend wearing a thick headband to bed for one to two months after undergoing otoplasty. This will help to avoid folding of the ear.
Most patients experience discoloration and bruising, aching or throbbing, numbness, swelling, and/or redness, but this usually goes away after seven to ten days. Pain or discomfort can be managed by medication.
Light exercise can resume after one week, and more strenuous activity after about two weeks.