This website is intended to provide you with general information only. This information is not a substitute for advice from your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and does not contain all the known facts about this procedure or every possible side effect of surgery. It is important that you speak to your surgeon before deciding to undergo surgery. If you are not sure about the benefits, risks and limitations of treatment, or anything else relating to your procedure, ask your surgeon to explain. Patient information provided as part of this website is evidence-based, and sourced from a range of reputable information providers including the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Better Health Channel and Mi-tec medical publishing.
Ear surgery, also known as otoplasty, is a procedure that changes the angle and shape of protruding or uneven ears in children and adults.
Ear surgery reshapes part of the cartilage in the ears, allowing them to lie closer to the side of the head. For the most part, the operation is done on children between the ages of four and fourteen. This is because a child’s ear cartilage is soft and easy to mould. In teenagers and adults, the firmer cartilage of fully formed ears does not allow the same degree of moulding. However, ear surgery can still be effective in teenagers and adults.
Ear surgery is a highly individualised procedure and may not be suitable for everyone. Always talk to your Specialist Plastic Surgeon before making a decision. Your surgeon will assess your condition and general health, and plan the treatment that is best suited to you.
Some children and adults are unhappy with the shape of their ears because they are too big, stick out too much or are uneven in shape (asymmetrical). Some may have experienced teasing and taunting as a result of their appearance Ear surgery may be able to assist in making the ear appear more normal and restore self-confidence.
Before you decide on ear surgery, there are some important issues to keep in mind:
Ear surgery may be a good option for you if:
Children who undergo ear surgery usually receive general anaesthesia. Adults often receive local anaesthesia and conscious sedation.
Modern anaesthesia is safe and effective, but does have some risks. Ask your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and anaesthetist for more information. Your surgeon and/or anaesthetist will ask you about all the medications you are taking or have taken, and any allergies you may have. Make sure you have an up to date list before the surgery.
Modern surgery is generally safe but does have the potential for risks and complications to occur.
Some general risks and complications of surgery may include:
Specific risks and complications associated with ear surgery include:
Depending upon your general health and the extent of the procedure, ear surgery can be performed either as a day case or alternatively with a short hospital stay. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will advise on the best option for you.
Before undergoing surgery, it is important that you:
You will also be asked to provide a complete medical history for your Specialist Plastic Surgeon including any health problems you have had, any medication you are taking or have taken, and any allergies you may have.
If you decide to undergo ear surgery, your surgeon will ask you to sign a consent form. Parents will need to give written consent for a child. Before signing, read the consent form carefully. If you have any questions about what is written, ask your surgeon.
You may be advised to stop taking certain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, and medicines that contain aspirin. You may also be asked to stop taking naturopathic substances such as garlic, ginkgo, ginseng and St John’s Wort as they may affect clotting and anaesthesia. Always tell your surgeon EVERYTHING you are taking.
You may be given medicines to take before the surgery, such as antibiotics.
Unless your surgeon advises differently, you will be able to continue taking most medicines that you have been taking.
Your surgeon will also advise you if any other tests are required, such as blood tests, X-ray examinations or an Electrocardiograph (ECG) to assess your heart.
Prepare a “recovery area” in your home. This may include pillows, ice packs, a thermometer and a telephone within easy reach. Make sure you arrange for a relative or friend to drive you to and from the hospital or clinic. Someone should also stay with you for at least 24 hours after you return home.
Your surgeon should give detailed preoperative instructions. Follow them carefully.
Arrange for a relative or friend to drive you home after the surgery. Someone should also stay with you for at least the first day after the operation and preferably for a few days.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, notify your surgeon immediate:
After surgery, a bulky bandage will cover your ears. The bandage will remain in place for up to 10 days. The ear may be bruised, swollen and tender once the bandages are removed. Unevenness of the ears is also common in the first days after surgery. This will usually resolve over time and the final contour will become evident after several weeks.
You may experience pain, swelling and discomfort for the first few days after surgery. Paracetamol is usually sufficient in relieving pain. Your surgeon may advise that you wear an elastic headband at night to protect the shape of the ears for several weeks. Sleeping with the head elevated on two pillows may reduce swelling.
Avoid activities that may bend or hurt the ears, such as contact sports. Do not wear earrings.
Most adults can return to work after five days. Children can go back to school after seven days, but must be careful in the playground.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on post-operative care. These instructions may include:
Be sure to ask your surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period, such as:
Scars are an inevitable part of any invasive surgery. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will endeavour to minimise scarring and to keep your scars as inconspicuous as possible by locating the incisions in easily hidden sites. If you are prone to scarring, you should advise your surgeon.
As with all surgical procedures, revisional surgery may be necessary to correct minor irregularities.
Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. Prices for individual procedures can vary widely between Specialist Plastic Surgeons. Some factors that may influence the cost include the surgeon’s experience, the type of procedure used and the geographic location of the office.
Costs associated with the procedure may include:
Your surgeon should welcome any questions you may have regarding fees.
Visit the Plastic Surgery Glossary for more medical terms.