This page will give you information about an otoplasty. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is an otoplasty?
An otoplasty (or pinnaplasty) is an operation to improve the appearance of your child’s ears.
Is an otoplasty suitable for my child?
Your child is most likely to benefit from an otoplasty if one or more of the following conditions apply to them.
- Your child is self-conscious about the size or shape of their ears.
- Your child is being teased and this is causing them distress.
- Your child has unusually-shaped ears.
An otoplasty will not improve your child’s physical health. For this reason, the operation should be performed only if the aim is to improve their self-confidence and to make them more comfortable with their appearance.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your child’s ears should have a better shape.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
For 6 months after birth, the cartilage of a baby’s ears is still soft. It is possible to permanently change the shape of the ears using moulding splints. Once a baby is older than 6 months, the cartilage will have become too hard and surgery is the only option to change the shape of the ears.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic.
For older children (young adults) the operation can be performed using only a local anaesthetic.
The operation usually takes about an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut at the back of the ear and peel off some skin from the cartilage. They will change the shape of the cartilage so the ear lies closer to your child's head.
Through the same cut at the back of the ear, your surgeon may also make a cut just inside the cartilage so they can peel back the skin from the front of the cartilage and lightly score it. This technique tends to make the cartilage bend towards your child's head.
Your surgeon will pack your child's ears with moulding material and place a dressing on your child’s head to give the ears support.
What can I do to prepare my child for the operation?
Your child should try to maintain a healthy weight. They will have a higher risk of developing complications if they are overweight.
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
Specific complications of this operation
- cosmetic problems
Consequences of this procedure
- unsightly scarring of the skin
How soon will my child recover?
Your child should be able to go home the next day.
For a few weeks, while the swelling and bruising settles, your child should rest and not do strenuous exercise.
Your child can go back to school after the head dressing has been removed but you may want to wait another 1 to 2 weeks until it is difficult to tell that they have had surgery.
Your child should not play sports for 6 weeks.
The results of an otoplasty are usually permanent.
An otoplasty is an operation to improve the appearance of your child’s ears. The operation should be performed only if the aim is to improve their self-confidence and to make them more comfortable with their appearance. You should consider the options carefully and have realistic expectations about the results.
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Last reviewed: September 2022