Abnormally shaped ears can cause both children and grown adults considerable emotional discomfort and social unease. Cosmetic ear surgery, known as otoplasty, helps people of any age correct a number of conditions that can cause self-consciousness, including protruding ears, abnormally large earlobes, “lop ears” that fold forwards, and shell ears (a condition in which the outer rim or other natural folds of the ear are missing).
Otoplasty restores a natural, graceful shape to the ear, creating a contour that fits the shape of the head and the features of the face.
Otoplasty can also be performed on children as soon as their ear cartilage is stable enough to withstand surgery—usually by age five.
If your surgery corrects protruding ears, you’ll see results as soon as the bandages are removed. Your ears will be shaped closer to your head, and any scars will be hidden behind the ear.
For other cosmetic treatments, it may take more time before you see a final result. In general, complications are rare for ear surgery, and it has a very high satisfaction rate.
Based on your surgeon’s recommendation and your own preference, you will be given a local anesthetic, an intravenous sedative, or a general anesthetic during your surgery.
During otoplasty, the ear may be reshaped by cutting the cartilage of the ear, or your surgeon may use a technique that involves folding and stitching the cartilage instead of cutting it.
Both techniques begin with a small incision at the back of your ear, enabling the surgeon to access to the cartilage. If your procedure requires incisions to the front of the ear, your surgeon will hide those incisions within the ear’s natural folds.
The surgeon will use sutures to reshape the cartilage and then close the incisions with stitches.
In general, the procedure will take between two to three hours.
After surgery, you will need someone to bring you home. Your head will be bandaged, and you will need to wear the bandages for at least three days. The bandage will then be replaced by a headband-type dressing that you may need to wear for up to three weeks.
The surgical site may remain swollen for up to three months, but most people can go back to work within a week if they’re comfortable being seen in public wearing the headband.
Otoplasty has a very good safety record, and complications are rare. However, all surgeries carry some risk, so it’s important to discuss your risk profile with your surgeon during the consultation process. In addition to medical risks, there may be a cosmetic risk of asymmetry or the need for revision surgery.