Cosmetic surgery of the ear, or otoplasty, is an aesthetic procedure that alters the size, position, or proportion of the ears. The outcome of ear reshaping surgery varies greatly depending on the changes that are desired, but these procedures generally improve self-confidence, especially in children and teenagers. If the ears stick out, ear pinning can be performed to flatten the ears against the head. If one ear is positioned higher than the other, ear repositioning can create symmetry. Large, oversized ears can be addressed alone or in conjunction with other ear issues.
In children, the cartilage is soft enough that splints can be used for contouring during surgery. This is typically done under general anesthesia. Adults, however, have harder cartilage, and the procedure must be carried out by removing or repositioning cartilage after making a small incision in the ear.
Depending on your anatomy and desired changes, your doctor may make an incision hidden inside or behind the ear. Extra cartilage or soft tissue that makes the ear "stick out" too much can be removed. If normal folds are missing from the ear, they can be re-created by shaping the cartilage with permanent sutures or scraping the cartilage to contour it. Sometimes a combination of techniques is needed to get the desired result.
Your surgeon will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your post-surgical care, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Normal symptoms you will experience
- Potential signs of complication
Immediately after surgery
Following the procedure, you will have dressing wrapped around your ears. Soon after the procedure, your doctor will remove this heavier bandage to inspect the ears, and will likely replace it with a lighter dressing. It’s essential to keep this dressing in place unless instructed to do otherwise by your doctor. Your surgeon may also prescribe medication to take during your recovery period.
Typically, you will be released from the hospital or ambulatory facility the same day as your procedure, but you must have someone drive you to and from the surgery.
Recovery time frame after ear surgery
You should have a responsible adult with you for at least the first twenty-four hours during your recovery period. For the first week of recovery, it’s important that you rest frequently, though you should still move around occasionally to keep blood flowing. To minimize discomfort, it’s recommended that you recline but keep your head elevated. Do not rest your head on the operated ear, as this can result in throbbing and general discomfort.
Your doctor will let you know when any dressing can be removed, and you may be asked to apply antibiotic ointment to the ears or perform other wound care treatment at home.
Approximately one week after your procedure, you will return to the doctor’s office. Your surgeon may remove stitches at this time, though absorbable stitches are often used, which do not require removal.
Though recovery is unique for every patient, you can expect to return to work and any light activity after one week. In two weeks, your final results will be visible, though small changes to the ears can occur for up to twelve months.