Updated August 6, 2019
Ear Pinning – Otoplasty
Ear Reshaping Surgery – Fort Worth, Texas
Otoplasty, or ear pinning/reshaping, is a common operation performed to correct prominent ears. Children entering school can benefit greatly from the improved self-esteem this surgery provides. Adults with old ear injuries and children with other ear defects present at birth (“lop ear,” “Stahl’s ear,” “constricted ear,” or “cryptotia”) are also candidates for otoplasty.
Otoplasty is typically performed between the ages of four and fourteen years of age. Ears are almost fully grown by age four, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure. Ear surgery on adults can also be performed if it was not done as a child.
Parents should remain sensitive to their child’s feelings about protruding ears. Don’t insist on surgery until your child wants the change. Children who feel uncomfortable with their ears and want the surgery are generally more cooperative during the process and are typically happier with the outcome.
One of the more common otoplasty techniques involves a small incision on the back of the ear that allows access to the ear cartilage. The cartilage is sculpted and bent back towards the head. Permanent stitches underneath the skin may be used to help maintain the new shape. Another technique utilizes a similar incision on the back of the ear and a small amount of skin is removed. Stitches are used to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear without removing cartilage. Sometimes a combination of these procedures is chosen, depending on the specific needs of the ear.
What kind of anesthesia will I have?
If your child is young, general anesthesia is recommended, so the child will sleep through the entire operation. For adults, local anesthesia with intravenous sedation may be preferred.
Where will my incisions be?
In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, surgery is usually performed on both ears for a better balance.
How long is the surgery?
The surgery usually takes about two to three hours, although more intricate procedures may take longer. Ear surgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure in a surgical center.
What are the risks?
Complications of ear surgery are infrequent and are usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure. The “pinned” ear may revert back to its pre-operative shape. This is not likely, but is more common in adults.
A small percentage of patients may develop a blood clot on the ear. It may dissolve naturally or may require drainage with a needle.
Occasionally, patients may develop an infection in the cartilage, which can cause scar tissue to form. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics; rarely, surgery may be required to drain the infected area.
How do I prepare for surgery?
Prior to any procedure, it is necessary to review medications you are taking that may affect your surgery. You may be asked to stop or to adjust some medications you are on. As always, it is important to include supplements on your list of medications. Aspirin and aspirin products (Alka-Seltzer, Carisoprodol, Excedrin, Goody’s, Midol), anti-inflammatory medications (except acetaminophen, or Tylenol), and herbal supplements must be avoided for 10 days prior to your surgery. For more details about which medications and supplements to avoid, click here. Dr. Kirby will discuss your medications with you.
Depending on your medical condition, you may be asked to get lab testing or a medical checkup prior to your surgery. You may also be asked to have an updated mammogram prior to your surgery if you have not had one recently.
Tobacco products impair your body’s ability to heal. You will be asked to stop smoking for 6 weeks prior to any surgery. Tobacco step-down products such as chewing gum and Nicoderm continue to provide your body with tobacco and must be stopped as well. Please ask Dr. Kirby if you will need assistance with quitting.
Be sure to arrange for a responsible adult to drive you to and from your surgery. You will need someone to stay with you the night following your surgery as well.
You will receive specific instructions for your surgery day from Dr. Kirby’s office.
What is my recovery from surgery like?
Adults and children are usually awake and walking around within a few hours of surgery. The head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage immediately following surgery to ensure the best molding and healing of the ear(s). The ears may throb or ache for a few days, but this can be relieved by oral pain medication. Within a few days, the bulky bandages will be replaced by a lighter head dressing similar to a headband. Be sure to follow the directions for wearing this dressing, especially at night. Stitches are usually removed, or will dissolve, in about 1 week.
Any activity in which the ear might be bent should be avoided for approximately one month. Most adults can go back to work about five days after surgery. Children can go back to school after seven days or so, if they’re careful about playground activity. You may want to ask your child’s teacher to keep an eye on the child for a few weeks.