Patient Education: Otoplasty

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What is Otoplasty?

Otoplasty, also known as ear surgery, is a procedure to change the shape, position, or size of the ears. It can be performed to correct deformities or to improve the appearance of the ears if they are misshapen, protruding, or disproportionately large.

Who is a Candidate?

  • Children: Typically performed on children between the ages of 5 and 14. Ears are usually fully developed by the age of 5.
  • Adults: Adults can also undergo otoplasty if they are unhappy with the appearance of their ears and do not have major health issues that would impair healing.

Preparing for Surgery

  • Medical Evaluation: Includes a physical exam and a review of your medical history. Discuss any medications you are taking.
  • Photographs: May be taken from different angles to help with planning the surgery and assessing its immediate and long-term results.
  • Preoperative Instructions: May include guidelines on eating, drinking, and taking or avoiding certain medications. Smokers will be advised to stop smoking well in advance of surgery to improve healing.

The Procedure

  • Techniques: Varies depending on the specific issues with the ears. Common techniques include:
    • Cutting/Trimming: Removing pieces of cartilage to reshape the ear.
    • Folding/Suturing: Creating or enhancing folds to make the ears lie closer to the head.
    • Incisions: Typically made on the back of the ear to minimize visible scarring.
  • Anesthesia: Generally performed under local anesthesia combined with sedation for adults and general anesthesia for children.
  • Duration: Usually takes about 1 to 3 hours, depending on the complexity of the surgery.

After the Procedure

  • Recovery: Most patients can go home the same day. Full recovery takes about 6 weeks.
  • Care at Home: Includes wearing a headband to help maintain the new positioning of the ears, especially at night.
  • Activity: Avoid vigorous activity or any activity that might bend the ears for at least one month.
  • Follow-Up: Required to monitor healing. Stitches may need to be removed, or they may dissolve on their own.

Risks and Complications

  • Common Risks: Include infection, bleeding, and reaction to anesthesia.
  • Possible Complications: May include scarring, asymmetry, changes in skin sensation, and dissatisfaction with the results.
  • Revision Surgery: Occasionally needed if the outcome is not as expected or if complications occur.


  • Long-Term: Permanent, although the ears may slightly change as part of the normal aging process.
  • Satisfaction: Generally high, as the procedure can significantly improve appearance and boost self-esteem, especially in children.

Decision Making

  • Considerations: Discuss your goals with your surgeon, understand the realistic outcomes, and consider the emotional and psychological impacts of the surgical results.
  • Informed Consent: Ensure you understand all aspects of the surgery, including the potential risks and benefits.