Ear Surgery FAQs

Ear surgery – Otoplasty


How long does the surgery take?
The surgery takes about 1-2 hours. It is an outpatient procedure performed in the office under local anesthesia in most cases.

How long is the recovery?
Initial recovery is rapid and complete within 4-5 days. Thereafter the ears remain swollen for several months during which a night bandage is worn for the first few weeks.

What are the risks of the surgery?
Infection and bleeding are two of the common risks, though they occur in less than 2% of patients. The suture holding the era back can also break during the first few weeks and cause recurrence of the problem.

What type of anesthesia is used?
Local anesthesia is usually sufficient for this surgery.

What technique is used?
There are a number of different techniques available for each particular patient. They all involve some method of removal of extra cartilage, re-shaping of the cartilage, and removal of excess skin.

Is there much discomfort with the surgery?
The ears are sensitive, and though the surgery is not painful there is sensitivity which abates within a week.

Otoplasty is a surgical process to reshape the ear. A variety of different techniques and approaches may be used to reshape congenital prominence in the ears or to restore damaged ears. Each individual seeking otoplasty is unique both in terms of the appearance of their ears and expectations for results following otoplasty surgery. It is important that you fully discuss your expectations with your plastic surgeon prior to surgery.

Alternative forms of management consist of not undergoing the otoplasty operation.

Every surgical procedure involves a certain amount of risk and it is important that you understand the risks involved with otoplasty. An individual’s choice to undergo a surgical procedure is based on the comparison of the risk to potential benefit. Although the majority of patients do not experience the following complications, you should discuss each of them with your plastic surgeon to make sure you understand all possible consequences of otoplasty.

Bleeding- It is possible, though unusual, to experience a bleeding episode during or after surgery. Should post-operative bleeding occur, it may require emergency treatment to drain accumulated blood (hematoma). Do not take any aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications for ten days before surgery, as this may increase the risk of bleeding. Accumulations of blood under the skin may delay healing and cause scarring.

Infection- Infection is unusual after this type of surgery. Should an infection occur, treatment including antibiotics or additional surgery may be necessary.

Change in skin sensation- Diminished (or loss) of skin sensation in the ear area may not totally resolve after otoplasty surgery.

Ear trauma- Physical injury after the otoplasty procedure would disrupt the results of surgery. Care must be given to protect the ear(s) from injury during the healing process. Additional surgery may be necessary to correct damage.

Skin contour irregularities- Contour irregularities and depressions may occur after otoplasty. Visible and palpable wrinkling of skin and ear cartilage can occur.

Skin scarring- In rare cases, excessive or abnormal scars may result. Scars may be unattractive and of a different color than surrounding skin. There is the possibility of visible marks from sutures used during an otoplasty. Additional treatments including surgery may be necessary to treat abnormal scarring.

Surgical anesthesia- Both local and general anesthesia involve risk. There is the possibility of complications, injury, and even death from all forms of surgical anesthesia or sedation.

Asymmetry- The human face is normally asymmetrical. There can be normal differences between ears in terms of shape and size. There can be a variation from one side to the other in the results obtained from an otoplasty procedure.

Delayed healing- Wound disruption or delayed wound healing is possible. Some areas of the ear may heal abnormally or slowly. Frequent dressing changes or further surgery to remove the non-healed tissue may be required.

Allergic reactions- In rare cases, local allergies to tape, suture material, or topical preparations have been reported. Systemic reactions which are more serious may result from drugs used during surgery and prescription medicines. Allergic reactions may require additional treatment.

Long term effects- Subsequent alternations in ear appearance may occur as the result of aging or other circumstances not related to otoplasty surgery. Due to the resilient nature of ear cartilage, revisionary surgery may be necessary in order to improve the results following otoplasty surgery.

Pain- Very infrequently, chronic pain may occur from nerves trapped in scar tissue after an otoplasty.

Deeper sutures- Some surgical techniques use deep non-absorbable sutures. These items may be noticed by the patient following surgery. Sutures may spontaneously poke through the skin, be visible, or produce irritation that requires removal.

Unsatisfactory result- You may be disappointed with the results of surgery. Infrequently, it is necessary to perform additional surgery to improve your results.

Should complications occur, additional surgery or other treatments may be necessary. Even though risks and complications occur infrequently, the risks cited are particularly associated with otoplasty. Other complications and risks can occur but are even more uncommon. The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee or warranty expressed or implied on the results that may be obtained.

Most health insurance companies exclude coverage for procedures such as otoplasty or any complications that might occur from surgery. Please carefully review your health insurance subscriber-information pamphlet.

Otoplasty photo