During a setback otoplasty, an incision is made in the back of the ear, exposing cartilage (A). Permanent sutures in the cartilage pull the ear back closer to the skull (B). The incision is closed (C), and dressings are applied (D). (Illustration by GGS Inc.)

Otoplasty is an ear surgery that can improve the shape, position, or proportion of the patient’s ear(s). The surgery is used to reduce the size of the ears or pin them back closer to the head. The surgery is often used to correct a birth defect in the ear structure or treat an injury.

What is it?  

Otoplasty is a procedure that corrects deformities in the external ear. Typically performed on children, this surgery can help fix the shape, position, or proportion of the ears due to birth defects or a damaging injury. Most commonly, this procedure is used to reconstruct the external ear in children born partially or entirely without an auricle. It can also be performed to correct protruding ears, and reshape ears injured due to trauma or cancer surgery. Otoplasty does not fix any issues within the middle or inner ear.

What should I do to prepare? 

Two weeks before surgery, patients should stop taking medications with aspirin or ibuprofen. This can help prevent increased bleeding. Individuals should also arrange transportation on the day of the procedure.

What happens during the process? 

There are two types of ear surgeries commonly performed, ear pinning and reconstructive otoplasty, and ear reduction surgery. During an ear pinning and reconstructive otoplasty, an individual is placed under general or local anesthetics. An incision is made into the cartilage behind the ear. The exposed cartilage can then be reshaped, and any excess skin is eliminated. The ear is pinned closer to the head and held in place with stitches. A bilateral otoplasty is when this ear pinning and reconstruction is performed on both ears of an individual. In an ear reduction surgery, the size and shape of an ear are corrected. This is an outpatient procedure that is commonly performed on children and adults. During the process, unwanted skin and cartilage are removed from the ear, and small stitches are used to hold the ear in a new shape.

What are the risks and potential complications?

The general risks and complications associated with most surgical interventions apply to an otoplasty procedure. These include a reaction to local anesthetics or anesthesia and the potential for excessive bleeding during or after the procedure. There are specific risks and complications associated with a liposuction procedure. Most commonly, individuals experience a small amount of pain, swelling, and itching during the healing process. A person may develop scar tissue or a hematoma after the procedure. It is also possible for the ear to remain distorted or the protrusion to reappear.


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