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The Facts About Ear Pinning vs. Otoplasty

The Facts About Ear Pinning vs. Otoplasty

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Ears are for hearing and to help maintain balance, so they are basically a functional part of the body. But, with such prominent placement on the head, they can also be attention getters, especially when their shape or position falls outside of what’s considered normal. While some people accept the look of their ears, even when they are considered unattractive, others want to achieve a more normal appearance through surgery.

Ear Pinning vs. Otoplasty

Ear pinning is a common name for surgery in which a patient’s ears are pinned closer to their head so they protrude less. The more formal name for the surgery is otoplasty, and it benefits people with several types of ear malformations, including large or deformed earlobes, small ears and ears without natural creases.

Why Choose Ear Surgery

Many people are born with ear anomalies that are minor enough to never warrant medical attention. Others are born with ear malformations that draw attention and often ridicule, especially among children. Looks, however are not the only reason to consider ear surgery. Some malformations have the potential to cause hearing loss and developmental delays. Because of these potential problems, otoplasty is most often performed on children between ages four and 14.

Ear deformities also result from trauma, such as a bad piercing or an accident. In these cases, and in situations where a problem from birth was not corrected, older teens and adults may choose ear pinning. While the surgery corrects the physical imperfections of the ear, it also helps patients achieve a more symmetrical facial appearance and can reduce or eliminate teasing that typically comes with looking different than what is considered normal.

The Surgical Procedure

Otoplasty is typically done at a hospital, doctor’s office or outpatient surgery center. Younger patients get general anesthesia, while older children and adults get a local anesthetic and a mild sedative. Surgery usually lasts a couple of hours. While some patients may stay overnight after the procedure, most go home within hours of ear pinning. Two ear pinning techniques are common, and which one is used depends on the level of malformation, how much skin and cartilage are shown and the anatomy of the patient’s ears.

One surgical technique includes an incision behind the ear. Once made, the surgeon sculpts the ear cartilage and repositions it closer to the head. Sometimes excess cartilage is removed. After repositioning, non-removable stitches may be used to hold the cartilage in place. A second surgical technique includes removing skin in the affected area and folding back the ear cartilage. Surgeons do not remove any cartilage, and non-removable stitches hold the ear in place. For ears that sustained malformation from trauma, more intense reconstruction may be required.

After surgery, the patient’s head is wrapped in thick bandages to keep the ears in place and promote healing. After a few days, the surgeon usually changes the bandages to a lighter version. While adults typically return to normal function after a few days of surgery, children are restricted to non-play activities for the first three weeks. For all patients, the ears should not bend for a month or longer. During recovery, patients may have numbness, discomfort, headaches and swelling. Pain medicine may be recommended. Some sensations, such as itching near the incision, may last for several months.

Surgery also includes the possibility of complications, but they are rare with otoplasty. Risks include infection in the cartilage or blood clotting in the ear. The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or take a wait-and-see approach to allow the blood clot to resolve itself. If the clot doesn’t dissolve, the doctor can remove it with a needle. Patients may develop scar tissue and have a slight scar near the incision.

Are You a Good Otoplasty Candidate?

Plastic surgeons wait until a child is at least five years old before undergoing ear pinning because it takes that long for the child’s ear cartilage to be stable enough for surgery. Children also need to be healthy with no life-threatening illnesses and no untreated chronic ear infections. Those considered good surgery candidates are able to communicate their feelings, are cooperative and can follow instructions. For teens and adults, they should also be healthy nonsmokers who have a clear goal for what they expect from ear surgery. Other than necessity, many adults choose otoplasty for the many visual benefits it offers them. Once the decision to pursue otoplasty is made, it’s important to choose a surgeon with the skill and qualifications to do the job right.

Plastic Surgery Institute Miami led by Dr. Jason Altman, Dr. Marcelo Ghersi and Dr. John Oeltjen is a state-of-the-art, fully accredited clinical and surgical facility offering various techniques in facial rejuvenation including ear surgery, face lifts, neck lifts and eyelid surgery. We also have experts in a variety of facial fillers and resurfacing techniques.

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