Ear Surgery

Ear surgery or otoplasty may be performed for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes. Aesthetic ear surgery is most often performed to bring the size of the ears into balance with the face, or pin the ears back. Reconstructive ear surgery is performed to restore the appearance of lobes with excessively large holes that result from gauged earrings, lobes that are ripped or hanging too low from wearing earrings, or other injury. Dr. John R. Griffin performs ear surgery on Bay Area patients who wish to improve the appearance of the ears.

Ear Surgery Candidates

While most cosmetic procedures are performed on adults, ear surgery is often performed on children and teens as well. This is because the ear cartilage is more malleable in younger patients, and adjusting the size or shape of the ears can prevent the bullying that so often targets children with large ears.

Ear surgery can be performed to treat a range of problems, including:

  • Disproportionately large ears
  • Ears that stick out too far from the head
  • Otherwise abnormally shaped ears
  • Hanging lobes (earlobe repair)
  • Lobes that sag from wearing large earrings (earlobe repair)
  • Ripped earlobes (earlobe repair)

Ear Surgery Techniques

Surgeons have developed different ear surgery techniques to correct the various aesthetic flaws that can affect the ears.

Ear pinning: This approach is performed on patients whose ears stick out. During ear pinning surgery, an incision is made on the back of the ear where the ear meets the head; cartilage is removed, reshaped, folded back, and sutured as needed so the ears lie more parallel, rather than perpendicular to the head.

Cartilage reduction: The cartilage reduction technique is performed on patients whose ears are too large. The most ideal location for the incisions is along the back of the ears to limit noticeable scarring; however, in some cases, incisions will also be made on the front of the ear. Through these incisions, the skin is separated from the cartilage and the upper and middle ear cartilage is reduced in size.

Lobe reduction: Lobe reduction may be performed in conjunction with cartilage reduction or on its own. In this approach, an incision is made on the back of the earlobe; tissue and skin are then removed, and the lobe reshaped.

Cartilage reconstruction: Cartilage reconstruction is performed on patients with ears that have been misshapen due to injury. In this approach, an incision is made behind the ear and the skin is separated from the underlying structure. Then, scar tissue is removed and the ears are reshaped to their normal appearance.

Lobe reconstruction: The lobe reconstruction approach is recommended to patients who have large gauged earring holes, torn earlobes, and hanging earlobes. The technique may involve closing the earring hole or tear with stitches, or reshaping the lobe tissue and lifting to a more pleasing aesthetic. 

Ear Surgery Procedure Steps

Ear surgery may be performed while the patient is under general or local anesthesia. General anesthesia is more commonly used when adjustments are made to the cartilage, while local anesthesia is best suited to patients who are only have work done to the ear lobes. The surgical process generally proceeds as follows:

  1. Hair is secured away from the face
  2. Surgical markings may be made with a pen
  3. Anesthesia is administered
  4. Antibacterial solution is applied
  5. The incisions are made
  6. In the case of cartilage ear surgery, the skin is separated from the cartilage, and the cartilage is reshaped, reduced, or sutured
  7. In the case of lobe surgery, excess skin and tissue is removed, and holes stitched up
  8. The process is repeated on the other ear
  9. The ears are checked for symmetry
  10. Incisions are closed

Ear Surgery Recovery

Recovery from ear surgery may last anywhere from a couple of weeks to six weeks. Patients who undergo lobe surgery will experience a shorter recovery period than those who undergo cartilage surgery. Patients can return to work after a couple of days to a week after surgery. Strenuous activity should be avoided for two to six weeks. Dr. Griffin will advise patients on what to expect, as well as what activities should be avoided and for how long.

Ear Surgery Side Effects

Ear surgery may result in discomfort, swelling, and itching around the incision site. The side effects typically last two to six weeks.

Ear Surgery Risks

Ear surgery risks include:

  • Poor reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • The formation of scar tissue
  • Under or over correction
  • Ear asymmetry

Ear Surgery Results

The results of lobe surgery can be seen as soon as the bandages are removed, typically within a week of surgery. Cartilage surgery results should also be visible quickly, within a week or two. The results of ear surgery can be expected to last a lifetime.

Ear Surgery Consultations

To schedule an ear surgery consultation, contact Dr. John Griffin.