What do we need to know about ear surgery?

Ear surgery is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures for children between 4 and 14 years, although many adults also elect to have the procedure. Ear surgery can correct protruding ears, excessive ear cartilage, large or otherwise deformed earlobes, "lop ear" (where the ear tip bends down and forward), and "cupped" or "shell ear", which could be a very tiny ear or an ear without natural creases. Today surgeons have developed techniques to create ears for patients who are missing all or part of their ears as a result of a birth defect or traumatic injury.

When is the best time for ear surgery?

Children's ears are most often fully developed by age 4. There are no additional risks associated with age. The procedure is usually performed to improve the appearance of the ears so that the child would not have to endure ridicule from peers throughout their childhood. Firmer cartilage of fully developed ears in adults does not provide the same molding capacity as in children. Having the procedure at a young age is highly desirable for two reasons: The cartilage is extremely pliable, thereby permitting greater ease of shaping.
The child will experience psychological benefits earlier from the cosmetic improvement.



The first consultation

During the consultation, your surgeon will examine the structure of the ears and discuss possibilities for correcting the problems. Even if only one ear needs "pinning back," surgery will probably be recommended on both ears to achieve the most natural, symmetrical appearance. Otoplasty will not alter hearing ability. In a successful otoplasty procedure, the ears will be in proportion to the size and shape of the face and head.
Instructions before ear surgery

The ear surgery procedure

The otoplasty procedure is performed in an outpatient medical surgery center. The operation is performed under local anesthetic; it is absolutely painless, only the injection of the anesthetic causes a little unpleasant, biting feeling. Surgeons generally suggest a general anesthesia for young patients and a local anesthetic combined with a mild sedative for older children and adults. For certain general anesthesia cases, an overnight hospital stay may be appropriate. Otherwise, patients return home within hours of the procedure on the same day. Time in surgery is about two hours. The surgeon first determines the incision location by finding the most inconspicuous site on the back of the ear. Once the incision is made, the surgeon will sculpt the exposed ear cartilage and re-position it closer to the head for a more natural-looking appearance. In some cases, the surgeon will remove more excessive cartilage in order to enhance the ultimate appearance of the ear. Dissolvable or removable stitches are used for the incision location, which are removed or dissolve within seven days.

After the ear surgery

After the procedure, the head is wrapped in a thick bandage. Fitting of the bandage helps to maintain the new position of the ears and enhances the healing process. Patients usually return to the surgeon's office within the first few days to exchange the bandage for a lighter one. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions regarding the use of the lighter bandage. Your surgeon will also provide a complete post-operative instruction list, which you should follow carefully to reduce the risk of complications. Young patients are often required to refrain from normal activity for at least seven days after surgery. Special care must be given to children throughout the first three weeks of recovery to restrict them from playful activities that may disrupt the ears. Adult patients usually return to normal activity within three days after surgery. More complicated procedures may require a longer recovery time. In all cases, the ears should not be bent for at least a month or more. Some patients, however, experience some post-operational pain in the next two nights, which may be relieved by taking pain killers. We put a turban-like bandage over the ears, which is removed together with the stitches after a week. We strongly advise our patients to wear a head-band for another week.


There is no surgery without a risk. If the operation is performed by an experienced plastic surgeon, complications are rare and small. Regarding the healing process, there are large differences among the patients, one can never foresee the result completely. After an otoplasty patients may experience temporary discomfort and numbness, headaches, swelling that can be managed with head elevation, decreases within a week, unusual sensations that may include itching or the lack of sensation at the incision line, which can disappear after six months. Complications can include a blood clot on the ear or infection in the cartilage area. The surgeon may recommend a waiting period to see if the blood clot or infection with antibiotic treatment resolves itself. If the blood clot does not dissolve, it can be removed with a needle. Scar tissue formation is a possibility. Many patients may have a slightly visible scar on the back of the ear.