Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)

What is otoplasty (ear reshaping)?

Ear surgery, also known as otoplasty, can improve the size, shape, position or proportion of the outer ear, which is also called the pinna. There is a large range of procedures available depending on the patient and desired outcomes. Prominent ears that stick out can be flattened against the head with a setback otoplasty. If the ears are positioned differently on the head, ear surgery can help improve symmetry.

Who is a suitable candidate for otoplasty?

Otoplasty is a good option for you if are looking for improvement in your appearance and have realistic expectations of what can be accomplished with surgery. You may benefit from otoplasty surgery if you have ears that are prominent, asymmetric (the right and left ears do not look the same), or disproportionate to your head. If you are in good health, have realistic expectation, and overall happy with your appearance, you are likely a good candidate for ear surgery. Patients of all ages, including adults and teenagers may be candidates for ear reshaping surgery. Otoplasty can be done once the ears have reached their full size, typically around age six.

What you can expect at your initial consultation appointment?

At the initial consultation with your plastic surgeon, your plastic surgeon will evaluate whether you are a candidate for ear surgery. The size, shape and position of your ears will be assessed. You will be asked about your medical history, previous surgeries, and your desired outcomes. Photographs may also be taken of your ears and face to assist in surgical planning.

Your plastic surgeon will discuss what changes to the ears are possible and the details of surgery, including the recovery and care needed after surgery.

What is done during otoplasty surgery?

The surgery is done on an outpatient basis (this means you will go home the same day), under local and/or general anesthesia, and usually takes 1 to 2 hours to complete. A local anesthetic will be injected into the area to reduce discomfort after surgery. Incisions are usually hidden behind the ear or inside the ear along the inner folds. Depending on the goals of the surgery, excess cartilage or skin that is causing the ear to stick out prominently can be removed. Prominent ears can also be set back using sutures to hold the ear in a better position on the head. If folds are missing, the cartilage can be shaped and sutured to recreate the normal folds of the ear. A combination of techniques may be used depending on each patient’s desired goals. At the end of the otoplasty surgery, dressings are placed and will need to be worn for approximately 1 week after surgery. Patients will generally be ready to go home 2 hours after surgery is finished.

Where are the scars?

As plastic surgeons, we realize the importance of the cosmetic outcome.  We will make every effort to optimize the scar size and conceal it in the least visible area of the ears. In many cases, it is possible to improve the appearance with very little scarring. The incisions in otoplasty are usually placed behind the ears so they are not visible.

It is important to realize that scar formation varies between individuals and is highly dependent on a person’s genetic predisposition.  Scars typically fade over time but their final dimensions and colour are difficult to predict.  At the consultation, the plastic surgeon will talk to you about this.

Where is the surgery performed?

All surgeries are performed at Women’s College Hospital as day surgery by the plastic surgery senior resident under the supervision of a faculty plastic surgeon.

What to expect in the recovery? How long will I be off work? When can I resume exercise?

Patients are go home following surgery. A head dressing is placed at the end of surgery to protect the ears. This should be left on and kept dry until the first follow-up appointment. The head should be elevated for the first few days after surgery to minimize swelling and bruising. For the best results, you should plan on resting and taking it easy after surgery. For the first few days after surgery, most patients experience some swelling and discomfort at the surgical site. After which you will starting feeling better and returning to your normal self. You should plan on being off work for 1 to 2 weeks. During your recovery, you should refrain from strenuous physical activity including lifting and pulling for 4 weeks following surgery.

What are some common complications of surgery?

Complications of ear surgery, like those of other cosmetic procedures, are uncommon but may include unfavorable scarring, asymmetries, bleeding, infection, swelling and numbness. Specific to otoplasty surgery, risks including recurrence of the deformity can occur. In some patients, a second procedure may be required to correct residual asymmetry.

When will I see the final results of the surgery?

Healing after otoplasty is a gradual process. Some mild swelling may persist for several months, and it may take up to a year for your results to fully appear.