How is otoplasty performed?

Over the past two years, our ears have been working overtime to keep our masks covering our faces, while continuing to fill their more historical role of showing off our earrings and keeping our glasses perched in position.  While our external ears function as satellite dishes to funnel sound into our ear canal, the shape, position, or proportion may cause patients to seek cosmetic intervention. “Otoplasty” is the name for the procedure that is commonly known as “ear pinning,” which is a procedure that can reshape the outer ear to correct an irregular or prominent ear or ears.

While there are several different types of auricular abnormality, the most common is called “lop ear” deformity.  An ear with this configuration does not have the upper extension of what is called the antihelical fold, which is a bend in the cartilage that keeps the rim of the ear from curving forward.  To correct this, a small ellipse of skin can be removed from behind the ear and permanent sutures can be placed to create or accentuate the fold.  These sutures are permanent and can last a lifetime.

For prominent ears, another common concern, the ears protrude away from the head further than usual.   For these patients, a small incision is made on the back of the ear where it meets the scalp and excess skin, and sometimes cartilage, is removed.  A skilled surgeon will place strategic sutures to fix the ear closer to the head.

Both of the above procedures can be done in the operating room under anesthesia or in the office under local anesthesia.  While there may be some mild discomfort with the injection of local anesthesia for the office-based approach, there is an added benefit which is that the patient is able to see the changes in real-time and help determine the exact degree of correction.

While the ears aren’t the most common surgically-altered organ in cosmetic surgery, their appearance can be a serious concern for some people and can successfully addressed with otoplasty surgery.


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