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Otoplasty Side Effects


Patients who undergo cosmetic ear surgery (otoplasty) are often eager to begin enjoying their “new” ears, along with the boosted confidence this procedure can provide. However, patients should understand that the results are not immediate, and that the six-week recovery period often involves some degree of mild discomfort.

As with any surgical procedure, the reconstruction and repositioning of the ears has potential side effects. Although they are extremely minimal, these side effects can cause patients post-surgical discomfort and pain. Anyone considering cosmetic ear surgery and hoping to benefit from the physical and psychological benefits it can provide should have a thorough understanding of the mild discomfort that can occur during the recovery process. Moderate pain, itching and numbness are common following a cosmetic ear surgery procedure. However, by carefully following your surgeon’s recommendations for caring for the surgical site during the recovery period, this temporary discomfort can be a small price to pay for the many years of rewards otoplasty can provide.

Pain after Otoplasty

The general post-operative pain associated with otoplasty is almost always minimal. In most cases, this pain can be relieved with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. After surgery, special bandages are carefully wrapped around the patient’s head to prevent as much discomfort as possible. These bandages also allow the patient to rest more easily. The patient must wear these bandages for the first one to two days following surgery. They will be replaced by lighter dressings after that time. After about a week, the patient can cease wearing bandages altogether. Although slight pain is normal following cosmetic ear surgery, prolonged pain may indicate the development of complications from the surgery. If pain persists, the patient should contact a medical professional right away.

Itching and Aching

After otoplasty, there is a very good possibility that the patient will experience some itching and aching at the surgery site. The itching is typically a side effect of the sutures, which can become dry and irritated. It is particularly important that parents of young otoplasty patients take extra precautions to prevent their children from scratching their ears after surgery. Doctors recommend that children stay home from school for about a week following otoplasty. Parents and surgeons should speak to young patients about the importance of resisting the impulse to scratch or otherwise touch the surgical site. These seemingly insignificant reactions can result in ruptured sutures, which can cause significant damage to the improvements achieved with cosmetic ear surgery. It can also lead to infection and other complications.

Aching or throbbing are other common side effect of otoplasty and can be alleviated with medication. Ideally, these effects should dissipate several days after surgery. Because the surgery is performed on the head, an area of the body with significant and constant blood flow, throbbing after otoplasty is normal while the ears react to their new positioning. If the aching continues for an extended period of time, patients are advised to get in touch with their doctor immediately.


Many otoplasty patients experience some degree of numbness following the procedure. Because the nerves in and around the ears must be regenerated, it is not uncommon for some feeling to be diminished or temporarily lost immediately after surgery. Numbness and other abnormal nerve sensations can last for a few days or up to several months after otoplasty before returning to a normal state. Patients with numbness of the ears must be particularly careful to avoid exposing their ears to extreme heat or cold, such as a curling iron or ice pack, as the area can become damaged without the patient even realizing it.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view otoplasty before and after photos.

Photo credit: Thomas L. Tzikas, MD, PA

Talk to a Facial Plastic Surgeon about Otoplasty Side Effects

The decision to undergo cosmetic ear surgery is an exciting one that can mean an entirely new chapter of enhanced appearance and renewed self-confidence in the patient’s life. But it is important to understand that before the alterations have healed, some discomfort is common. It is also important to note that if the procedure is performed by a qualified, reputable surgeon, this discomfort will be minimal and temporary. By discussing options such as pain killing medications and special precautions that should be taken over the course of the six-week recovery period, patients can help themselves experience the minimum amount of pain and discomfort as they heal.

For the most detailed information on the side effects of otoplasty, patients should speak with a plastic surgeon trained in cosmetic ear surgery. A skilled physician will be able to answer questions specific to your individual needs, and provide you with the peace of mind you need to have the most pleasant plastic surgery experience possible. Locate a facial plastic surgeon near you by searching DocShop’s directory of experienced doctors today.

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