Ear Pinning (Otoplasty)

What Is Ear Pinning?

Ears can be a source of great psychological pain when their size and shape vary from socially accepted norms. This is especially true of young children who have to endure the taunts of playmates.

Protruding ears or deformed ears are the result of genetics and can’t be prevented. Sometimes, even an injury can significantly damage an ear to the point where it is clearly deformed.

Ear surgery, known as “otoplasty”, ear pinning or “ear reshaping” is a type of cosmetic plastic surgery procedure aimed at setting prominent ears closer to the head, or reducing the size of larger ears. However, there are other ear problems that can be helped with surgery. Surgeons can even build new ears for those who were born without them or who lost them through injury.

The size and shape of the ear is dependent on the underlying cartilage.

The goal of ear pinning procedure is to create pleasing, symmetrical ears which are well shaped and well positioned in relation to the head. Each patient requires an individualized treatment plan carefully designed to fit his or her specific needs, designed to reshape the cartilage framework. This is done by a combination of creating new folds with permanent sutures, reducing excess cartilage and repositioning the whole ear complex closer to the side of the head. Incisions are usually placed in the groove behind the ear, thus making them well camouflaged.


How Ears Age?

We don’t often think about our ears when we think about getting older. Nonetheless, they are one of the most noticeable features of our face and, when they begin to lose their youthful look, so, too, does the rest of us begin to shown an overall appearance of aging.

Do you think you stopped growing at age 18? If that’s true, how come the older you get, the bigger your nose and ears seem to be? It turns out that scientists have confirmed – ears actually do grow as we age. Bones, stop growing after puberty and muscle and fat cells also stop dividing. But cartilage – that’s the plastic-like stuff in ears and noses – cartilage continues to grow until the day we die. Not only does cartilage grow, but the earlobes elongate from gravity. And that makes ears look even larger.

Older people do have larger noses and ears. What to do? Rhinoplasties can pare down that extra cartilage that gives you that bulbous nose. And your plastic surgeon can whittle down your earlobes so they fit nicely.

Ears sag with age as well, just like other skin on our face and body, because of the breakdown of specialized fibers known as collagen and elastin. Both collagen and elastin are naturally produced by our body and work to maintain the skin’s natural firmness and plumpness. Collagen, a fat, is responsible for keeping our skin looking full and healthy and, without it, ears can quickly begin to lose their shape and youthfulness.

Without a high enough collagen and elastin level, the earlobes begin to sag and elongate, leading to the droopy ear shape that we commonly associate with old age. Elastin allows the different layers of our skin to stretch and rebound. When it dissipates over time, the regular wear and tear that affects our ears isn’t as easily recovered from and signs of aging begin to accumulate and become noticeable. Women and men that regularly wear earrings – especially heavy ones – will notice drooping or sagging earlobes even earlier than those who don’t.


Who Is a Good Candidate for Ear Pinning Surgery?

You may be a candidate for ear pinning (otoplasty) if you have ears that stick out too far from the side of the head. You may also want to have an otoplasty procedure if your ears have an unusual or undesirable shape. The best candidates have realistic expectations about the benefits of surgery.


What’s the Best Age for Child to Have an Otoplasty?

There are a couple of factors to consider in determining the best age for your youth. First, ear development nears maturity around five or six years of age. Therefore, that age is an excellent time to have your child evaluated by a facial plastic surgeon. Another important factor is the psychological effect of peer pressure, which routinely starts around ages seven or eight. If the otoplasty is performed prior to the onset of peer pressure yet timed when the cartilage is mature enough to be reshaped, your child is not as adversely affected by the teasing of unknowing classmates. Typically we tell parents to schedule an initial consultation when the child is about age five or six.


How Should You Prepare for Ear Pinning Surgery?

The initial consultation with your surgeon will require your complete medical history, so you will want to be prepared to provide the necessary information. You must be completely open and honest with your surgeon. If there is any medical problem, you will be referred to a specialist.

With all of this information, your surgeon can plan the best procedure for your needs and tell you how to adequately prepare for the procedure by giving you guidelines.

Our “Medication List” reviews medications and supplements to avoid one week before plastic surgery. We do ask you to start Vitamin C (which promotes wound healing) three times a day with food one week before your otoplasty surgery.


How Is Ear Pinning Surgery Performed?

The usual method for fixing an ear deformity is called the ear pinning technique. In ear pinning surgery, a small incision is made behind the ear where the hard cartilage is. The cartilage can be modified by cuts or sutures to reshape the ear and bring it closer to the head. Since only skin and cartilage are involved, this can usually be done as an outpatient procedure. That means only local anesthetic is used, and almost no blood loss occurs for this particular operation.


What Is Recovery Like After Ear Pinning Surgery?

Ear pinning surgery recovery times extremely low compared to other operations. Most people resume regular activities in a week. Very few complications can delay recovery, as the only major side effect is blood clots that can develop at the incision.

For the first two days after the surgery, the patient must wear a tight head bandage that provides support for the newly shaped ear. After that, the stitches along the incision are removed (any sutures used to shape the cartilage must remain) and a lighter head dressing is used to support the ear. Most patients return to work in 5 days, while children are advised to return to school in 7. Signs of scarring and mild discomfort should subside after a few weeks. However, no physical activity that could bend the ear should be pursued until several months afterwards to promote full healing.

Ear pinning is a safe procedure that can be completed in a few hours. You’ll be able to walk away from it with a renewed sense of self-esteem.

While rates of healing vary widely and can sometimes be a source of worry, the final result is what matters most.


Will the Results of Ear Pinning Surgery Be Permanent?

In this procedure the results are typically permanent in nature.


What Are Possible Complications From Ear Pinning Surgery?

When the procedure is performed by a highly qualified cosmetic surgeon complications are rare and usually minor. However, as with any surgery, there are potential complications and risks. Your physician will spend time discussing these with you during your scheduled consultation. Be sure to bring a list of questions or concerns with you.  All patients are instructed to discuss the general surgical risks with their surgeon.

Compared to most other cosmetic surgeries, the complications for ear pinning surgery are few.