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Cosmetic ear surgery

Cosmetic ear surgery is a procedure to move very large or prominent ears closer to the head.

Cosmetic ear surgery may be done in the surgeon's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital. It can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the ears. Or, it can be done under general anesthesia , in which you are asleep and pain-free. The procedure usually lasts about 2 hours.

During the most common method of cosmetic ear surgery, a surgeon makes a cut in the back of the ear and removes the skin to see the ear cartilage. The cartilage is folded to reshape the ear, bringing it closer to the head. Sometimes the surgeon will cut the cartilage before folding it. Stitches are used to close the wound.

Alternative Names

Otoplasty; Ear surgery - cosmetic

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The procedure can be done after a child reaches age 5 or 6, when ear growth is almost finished. However, if the ears are very disfigured (lop ears), the child should have surgery early to avoid possible emotional stress at school.

Risks

Complications such as blood clots and infection are uncommon.

Other risks of the procedure include:

  • Areas of numbness
  • Increased feeling of cold
  • Keloids and other scars
  • Poor results

After the Procedure

The ears are covered with a thick bandage after surgery. Any tenderness and discomfort can be controlled with medication. If the surgery is done in a hospital, the child should go home the same day or the next day.

The ear bandages are removed after 2 - 4 days. However, the child will need to wear a light head wrap for 2 - 3 weeks to help the area heal. The child can return to school and normal activities when the ears heal.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Scars are very light and are hidden in the creases behind the ears.

The child might need a second procedure if the ear sticks out again.

References

Adamson PA, Doud Galli SK, Chen T. Otoplasty. In: Cummings CS, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 33.

Updated: 11/16/2011

David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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