Cosmetic ear surgery is a procedure to improve the appearance of the ear. The most common procedure is to move very large or prominent ears closer to the head.
Cosmetic ear surgery may be done in the surgeon's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital. It can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the ears. You may also receive medicine to make you relaxed and sleepy. Or, it can be done under general anesthesia, in which you are asleep and pain-free. The procedure usually lasts about 2 hours.
During the most common method of cosmetic ear surgery, the surgeon makes a cut in the back of the ear and removes the skin to see the ear cartilage. The cartilage is folded to reshape the ear, bringing it closer to the head. Sometimes the surgeon will cut the cartilage before folding it. Sometimes skin is removed from behind the ear. Stitches are used to close the wound.
The procedure is often done to reduce self-consciousness or embarrassment of the unusual shape of the ears.
In children, the procedure can be done after they are 5 or 6 years old, when ear growth is almost finished. If the ears are very disfigured (lop ears), the child should have surgery early to avoid possible emotional stress.
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
Risks of cosmetic ear surgery include:
Women should tell the surgeon if they are or think they are pregnant.
For the one week before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking blood thinners. These medicines may cause increased bleeding during the surgery.
During the days before your surgery:
On the day of your surgery:
Be sure to follow any other specific instructions from your surgeon.
The ears are covered with thick bandages after surgery. Usually, you can go home after you are awake from the anesthesia.
Any tenderness and discomfort can be controlled with medicine. The ear bandages are removed after 2 to 4 days. A head wrap or headband needs to be worn for 2 to 3 weeks to help the area heal.
Be sure to call your surgeon if you have severe ear pain. This can be due to infection of the ear cartilage.
Scars are very light and are hidden in the creases behind the ears.
A second procedure may be needed if the ear sticks out again.
Reviewed By: Tang Ho, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.