Ear Surgery (Otoplasty) Quick Facts

Set prominent ears back closer to the head, or reduce the size of large ears. Most often done on children between the ages of 4 and 14 years. (Occasionally covered by insurance.)
2 to 3 hours.
Young children: usually general. Older children or adults: general or local, with sedation.
Usually outpatient.
Side Effects
Temporary throbbing, aching, swelling, redness, numbness.
Back to work or school: 5 to 7 days. Strenuous activity, contact sports: 1 to 2 months.

Ear Reshaping (Otoplasty) Gallery

Ear reshaping (otoplasty) is a procedure that reduces prominence or abnormal curves of the ear. The normal shaped ear has well described features and is a beautiful anatomic unit by itself when those features are normal. Ear reshaping can “set back” ears that are prominent so that they are close to the head with a beautiful shape. The procedure allows patients to wear hair above or behind the ear without being self conscious. The ear reshaping also helps make the ears match better in situations where the ears do not match, which is common.

The ear reshaping procedure is much like the nose reshaping procedure (rhinoplasty) where the shape of the ear (the skin shape) reflects the underlying cartilage. In order to change the shape of the ear, as in nose reshaping, the shape of the cartilage must be changed. The ear reshaping is similar to nose reshaping in that additional techniques are used to achieve the cartilage shaping including thinning of cartilage and the requisite use of sutures (stitches) to hold the cartilage in place.

There are two main parts of the ear that are changed with most ear reshaping procedures. The area next to the ear canal is called the concha, and when this area is overgrown or at a wide angle, the ear will appear prominent (stick out too far). This area is reduced and “set back” which helps correct the prominence. The other area that is addressed is the fold just inside the rim of the ear called the antihelix. In some patients this area is “unfolded” (flat), meaning there is no crease present. This also contributes to the ear appearing prominent. There are many other shapes of the ear that can be altered surgically, but these are the main two problems addressed in most ear reshaping procedures.

The ear reshaping procedure is performed under local anesthesia alone, or sedation with local anesthesia, or general anesthesia. For adults, the most common technique is sedation with local anesthesia. In children general anesthesia is usually chosen.

After the procedure, a bandage is kept in place for three to five days. As with all surgery, there is swelling and bruising, but this resolves in a very short period of time. After about three weeks the wounds are well on their way to healing.


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“The staff is friendly and calming/reassuring. The process was clearly explained. The recovery process wasn’t remarkably painful…just some soreness which was expected. Dr. Herring was very professional and fully explained each step of the procedure.”

Frequently Asked Ear Reshaping Questions

What is ear reshaping surgery?

Ear reshaping surgery (otoplasty) is a surgical procedure that improves the shape of the ears. The ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedure surgically reshapes the cartilage of the ears which in turn changes the appearance of the ears. There are many different issues that can occur in the ear that cause patients to seek ear reshaping (otoplasty). The most common cause for patients to seek ear reshaping (otoplasty) is prominent ears, which means the ears stick too far out from the side of the head. This is usually not a medical problem, but is an appearance concern.

What are the changes in the ears that cause people to seek ear reshaping?

There are two common changes in the ears that cause patients to seek ear reshaping (otoplasty). Both of these changes result in the ear being more prominent to some degree. The first change is an overgrowth or adverse shaping of the conchal cartilage. This is the part of the ear just behind the hearing canal. If it is overgrown or misshaped then it can make the ear appear more prominent. The second change that can occur is a flattening or an unfolding of the antihelix of the ear. This is the part of the ear that is usually a gentle fold just in front of the outer rim of the ear. If this part of the ear is flattened or unfolded then it can make the ear appear more prominent.

In the basic ear reshaping (otoplasty), these two parts of the ear are reshaped to make the ear less prominent. In addition, there is often asymmetry, which means the right and the left ears do not match. Asymmetry in the body in common and is usually not noticed unless it is severe. In some patients a unilateral (one side) ear reshaping (otoplasty) is done so that the ears are more matched. There are other problems of the ear that can be changed with the ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedure in addition to the two main changes as described above. There are many different excellent ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedures to help improve the shape of the ear depending on the specific problem that needs correction.

What type of anesthesia is used for ear reshaping?

The ear reshaping (otoplasty) can be done with intravenous anesthesia plus local anesthesia, and sometimes can be done with local anesthesia alone. Many surgeons prefer to use a combination of intravenous anesthesia and local anesthesia for ear reshaping (otoplasty) to increase the patient’s comfort.

How long does the ear reshaping take?

Most ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedures can be done in one to two hours.

When can I go back to work after ear reshaping?

Most patients can go back to work in five to seven days after ear reshaping (otoplasty). It is important to prevent any trauma to the ear after ear reshaping (otoplasty). After ear reshaping (otoplasty) some surgeons place a head dressing to help protect the ears in the first few days after surgery. The healing process is well on the way three weeks after ear reshaping (otoplasty).

What is the process for getting ear reshaping?

The first step in getting an ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedure is to get a consultation with a plastic surgeon formally trained to perform this procedure. At the consultation, the specific concerns of the patients are discussed, and the options are discussed. Printed material about ear reshaping (otoplasty) is reviewed, and any questions are answered. Before the ear reshaping (otoplasty) procedure, there is a pre-operative appointment to finalize the plan. Surgery can usually be scheduled a few weeks after the initial appointment for ear reshaping (otoplasty).

Book a Consultation

If you are interested in ear reshaping for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to contact Herring Plastic Surgery today to schedule a consultation.