Ear Pinning (Otoplasty) 101

Ear PinningOtoplasty (or “ear pinning”) surgery for prominent ears (ears that “stick out”) is one of the most common types of plastic surgery performed on children. In most cases, the ideal time to perform this surgery is around 5 or 6 years of age—before children are exposed to the teasing that can often take place in school. That is not to say, however, that adults don’t present with this complaint. Many adults or adolescents will request consultation after having considered a surgical option for many years. Common questions asked include how the procedure is done, what kind of anesthesia will be used, how long the operation will take, and what the risks are.

Prominent ears can have several different causes. When a patient presents for consultation to improve the appearance of the ears, the facial plastic surgeon will take measurements of both ears (regardless of whether the problem presents in both or only one ear), take photos from all angles and discuss what the specific anatomic issues are that are causing the protrusion.

Surgery for prominent ears is often performed under general anesthesia in children, but in adolescents and adults may be performed under sedation or even local anesthetic, depending on the preference of the surgeon. Usually, this type of procedure takes about an hour per ear. This is due to the fact that very precise measurements must be taken to ensure the sides are as symmetric as possible, and that the issues causing the prominence are adequately addressed.

Several different techniques are used to reduce the prominent cartilages—some surgeons prefer to remove certain portions of cartilage, while others prefer to preserve as much as possible and rely on suture techniques to mold and bend the cartilage. No matter which technique is preferred, a bulky dressing will usually be applied for the first 24 hours after surgery to keep pressure on the areas that were operated on. This may be removed the next day in the office, and a softer dressing is placed after examining the incisions. The softer dressing usually will be worn 24 hours a day for a week to preserve the new position of the ears, and then only at night for the next few weeks. Pain during the recovery period may only be present the first night or two and after that tends to dissipate quickly.

The most common complication of otoplasty is undercorrection, or inadequate correction of the protrusion. This can often be improved with revision after wounds have healed for a sufficient amount of time. Given the fact that the ears are paired structures, it is impossible to achieve perfect symmetry between the two, but the goal is to fall within a very small window of difference to ensure the results are as symmetric as possible.

The majority of the time, otoplasty is a successful and satisfying procedure, and one that has a high patient satisfaction. For more information about otoplasty, consult with one of our facial plastic surgeons who can customize a plan that best fits your individual need.

About Dr. Sethna

Anita Sethna, MDAnita Sethna, MD, understands that facial plastic and reconstructive surgery demand a marriage of science and artistry, and she enjoys using precision, skill, and vision to make her patients’ dreams reality. Dr. Sethna’s meticulous attention to detail and her passion for maintaining a natural look ensure optimum results for her patients. A dedicated teacher, Dr. Sethna is devoted to assisting residents in facial trauma or reconstructive cases at Grady Hospital. She relishes the opportunity to educate residents and medical students in all aspects of patient care. Dr. Sethna has a strong interest in several areas of facial plastic surgery research and has presented at national meetings on the importance of resident and fellow education in rhinoplasty techniques and adjunctive measures to decrease discomfort during cosmetic procedures.

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  • Christopher T.

    I am looking into having this surgery done but I’m still not sure where to go. I was wondering if you could provide me with more information about how your facility works and if there are any other surgeons you would recommend. I am also concerned about financing and how that works at your facility. Thanks.