Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Pinnaplasty (child)

3-minute read

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.

Illustration of a pinnaplasty.
a An ear sticking out with unusual folds
b An ear closer to the head with more normal folds

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 complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • unsightly scarring of the skin

Specific complications of this operation

  • cosmetic problems

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.

Summary

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.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo