Otoplasty, or cosmetic ear surgery, is used to reshape one or both ears. Patients who are dissatisfied with the size, shape or orientation of their ears can alter their appearance through this outpatient procedure. Otoplasty also includes ear/earlobe reduction and cauliflower ear surgery to remove and recontour excess skin and cartilage. Because the ears are very prominent, many cosmetic ear surgery patients experience a significant increase in confidence and self-esteem once their ears have been given a more desirable appearance.
Ear Pinning and Reconstructive Otoplasty
Ear pinning and ear reshaping surgery is usually performed under a local anesthetic with a sedative for adults and general anesthesia for children.
To begin ear pinning surgery, the surgeon makes an incision behind the ear to expose the cartilage. The cartilage is then reshaped and excess skin is removed. Finally, if necessary, the ear is repositioned more closely to the head, and the incision is closed with non-removable stitches or sutures.
Cosmetic ear surgery generally lasts between one and two hours, depending on the extent of the surgery.
If a patient has protruding ears, ear pinning is used to position the ears more closely to the sides of the head. Ear pinning combines removing skin from the back of the ear, cartilage sparing, and scoring techniques. This fusion of techniques helps the surgeon to create the ideal shape and positioning of the patient’s ears.
There are many different techniques used to accomplish ear pinning during otoplasty surgery. The surgical technique the physician chooses depends upon the amount of correction the patient’s ears require. The various methods of ear pinning and reshaping can be classified into two primary groups: cartilage sparing and cartilage scoring (cutting).
Cartilage scoring techniques involve creating incisions in the cartilage to rearrange, add, or remove the tissue. There is a greater risk of scarring when these techniques are used, but those scars are difficult to see. Cartilage sparing techniques use stitches and sutures to change the ear’s position and shape. A cartilage sparing otoplasty surgery is non-invasive, often resulting in smooth, natural-looking curvatures.
Reconstructive ear surgery is a form of otoplasty used to correct deformities or injuries. It is commonly used to correct Microtia, a congenital defect of the ear that occurs in about three out of every 10,000 live births. Injuries that call for reconstructive ear surgery include burns, lacerations, and infected or torn piercings. Ronstructive ear surgery blends a variety of surgical techniques and other reconstructive procedures to recreate a natural-looking human ear. In some cases, cartilage can be removed from the patient’s ribs to augment the ear and help it attain a more natural appearance. If a skin graft is necessary, tissue is usually transferred from the patient’s upper buttock area.
What Is Bilateral Otoplasty?
While some patients require correction of only one ear, many patients have cosmetic concerns with both. Bilateral otoplasty is an ear pinning and reshaping surgery performed on both ears. Bilateral otoplasty is performed the same way as surgery involving a single ear, and has the same recovery time, potential complications, and benefits. Although post-procedural side effects such as itching and throbbing may be slightly more pronounced following a bilateral otoplasty, the discomfort should still be minimal.
Ear Reduction Surgery
Some patients are more concerned with the size and shape of their ears rather than their protrusion from the side of the head. A form of otoplasty known as ear reduction surgery is used for sculpting larger ears, giving patients a more natural look. Ear reduction surgery, which may include earlobe reduction, is an outpatient procedure and can be performed on children and adults. During the surgery, the doctor will remove unwanted cartilage and skin, and reshape the ear to create a smaller, more natural-looking size. Ear reduction surgery can provide balance and symmetry to the face and ears, and is often accompanied by ear pinning.
Cosmetic Ear Surgery Recovery
The amount of time it takes to recover form otoplasty depends on the extent of the treatment. Your surgeon will be able to provide you with an approximate time frame to expect, depending upon the procedure or procedures needed to achieve your goals. However, in almost every case of otoplasty, you can expect to wear a bandage for at least three days following surgery, and you will likely have to avoid vigorous physical activity for a few weeks. Children must often miss a week or more of school during recovery.
Visit the DocShop gallery to view otoplasty before and after photos.
Photo credit: Thomas L. Tzikas, MD, PA
Cosmetic Ear Surgery Risks
Otoplasty is a safe, widely practiced procedure that can yield fantasic results for many patients. However, all plastic surgery procedures involve a degree of risk, and otoplasty is no exception. Possible complications that can occur following the procedure include infection, unfavorable scarring, blood clots, persistent pain and changes in skin sensation.
Find a Facial Cosmetic Surgeon
As with all cosmetic surgery procedures, the decision to undergo otoplasty is a very personal one that can impact your confidence and self-esteem for many years to come. Having a doctor you trust can make all the difference when it comes to deciding on the right techniques and achieving optimal results from your ear pinning or reshaping surgery. If you are interested in learning if otoplasty surgery is right for you, we encourage you to search DocShop’s online directory to locate a facial cosmetic surgeon in your area.