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Ear pinning surgery, also known as an ear correction, otoplasty or pinnaplasty, is a procedure that alters the size, shape or position of the ears. The ears are a prominent feature of the face and can therefore have a large affect on its appearance. Many men, women and children are unhappy with the way their ears look and seek to correct this. This ear pinning overview will be able to give you a short introduction to the surgery.
What can an ear pinning achieve?
Ear pinning surgery is often performed on both children and adults. The aim of an ear pinning procedure is to achieve a proportionate and symmetrical ear shape and size. The surgery involves realigning the “pinna” of the ear, so that it is in a position that is more balanced with the rest of the face.
Protruding or disproportionate ears can be a great source of self-consciousness for many people. It can affect the way that they choose to wear their hair, their lifestyle choices and even their career choices. This procedure can greatly improve the appearance of the whole face. It can help boost self-esteem, therefore reducing the psychological harm that many people may experience.
Why have ear pinning surgery?
The ears are a prominent feature of the face, and can have a major affect on its aesthetic. Many people find that they are unhappy with the shape, size or position of their ears. This can therefore cause them to feel self-conscious about their appearance. The ideal ear pinning candidates can therefore include those who have:
- Prominent or protruding ears
- Asymmetrical ears
- An ear size that is disproportionate to the head size
- Reduced self-esteem due to ear shape or size
- Unsatisfying results from a previous ear pinning
Who is suitable for ear pinning surgery?
All ear pinning candidates should be:
- Over the age of 6
- Physically healthy
- Emotionally prepared for surgery
- Unhappy with the aesthetic of their ears
- Non-smokers, or have stopped smoking and using all nicotine products for a minimum of 6 weeks before surgery
- Have no active or ongoing ear infections
Can children have ear pinning surgery?
Prominent ears can be a facial feature that runs in families. Although they do not cause any hearing difficulties, they can be a source of bullying for children. It is therefore quite common for children to have an ear pinning.
Children that are ideal ear pinning candidates include those who are over the age of 6 years old. Children younger than 6 may not be good candidates as their ears have not yet fully matured. Most surgeons also find it important that a child having an ear pinning is able to express their unhappiness with their appearance, and personally wish to have the position or shape of their ears corrected.
There are no differences in the surgical techniques used for children and adults, although children are more likely to have the procedure done under a general anaesthetic.
It is important that you communicate your expectations effectively with your surgeon, so that they are better able to help you achieve your desired outcome. Choosing a highly-experienced Avrupamed surgeon will mean you or your child are in the best hands for an ear pinning surgery.
How is an ear pinning procedure performed?
An ear pinning procedure, or otoplasty, often lasts between 60 to 120 minutes. It may be done as a day procedure, or may have to stay in the hospital for one night. Before you go in for your ear pinning surgery, you must follow the instructions your surgeon has given you for eating, drinking and taking medications the night before surgery.
An ear pinning procedure involves the following steps:
1. Consent form
On the day of your surgery, you will meet your surgeon and anaesthetist to sign a consent form for the procedure. You may have signed the consent form in your pre-operative appointment a week before. After you have signed the form, your surgeon will draw lines around your ears and discuss the exact goals of the procedure.
Ear pinning surgery can be performed using general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with or without IV (intravenous) sedation. You and your surgeon will discuss which type of anaesthetic is most suitable for you prior to your surgery. Children often have the procedure done under a general anaesthetic.
Your surgeon will make the incision behind your ear, where the ear meets the head. This incision will expose the cartilage so that the surgeon is able to reshape it. Placing the incision in this area means that the scars are generally very well hidden.
4. Cartilage reshaping
The firm, but bendy part of the ear is the cartilage of the ear, and it is this part that your surgeon will reshape and resize during the procedure. Once your surgeon exposes the cartilage beneath the skin, they will reshape the ears and remove any excess skin or cartilage. The technique they choose to use depends on the goals specific to your ear pinning procedure. After your surgeon reshapes the cartilage, they will secure it into its new position with permanent sutures. These sutures prevent the ears from protruding outwards again.
5. Closing of incisions
The surgeon will close your incisions using external stitches. They will then wrap a tight bandage around your head. This helps stabilise your ears in their new position. Your surgeon will strategically place the incisions behind the natural skin creases, or along the hairline so that they are not visible.
6. Return to ward
You are then taken back to the ward so that you may recover from the anaesthetic. Once it is safe, you will be able to return home. Usually you can go home on the same day of your surgery. Although you will be able to see changes instantly after surgery, it can take around 3 to 6 months to appreciate the full cosmetic result of your ear pinning.
What is ear fold surgery?
Ear fold surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can correct prominent ears. This procedure involves making a small incision in the ear, then inserting an implant or ‘clip’ to pin back the ears. The implant folds the cartilage back into a less protruding position. Although it is a far less invasive treatment than a traditional otoplasty, it carries a greater risk of re-protrusion. Although it is a suitable alternative to an otoplasty for both adults and children with prominent ears, it cannot change the size or shape of the ears. It can only change the position.
What is earlobe repair surgery?
Earlobe repair surgery is different to an otoplasty, and is a procedure that repairs stretched or split earlobes. Earlobes can split due to accidental tearing whilst wearing earrings, or over-stretching from wearing tribal earrings. It is a simple procedure that can be done using a local anaesthetic. You will be able to see the final results around 4 to 6 months postoperatively, and you can re-pierce your ears after 6 months.
Some surgeons offer the “split earlobe repair with rotation flap” technique which can repair split earlobes and allow patients to wear earrings 2 weeks after surgery.
It is important for you to choose a surgeon to perform any of the above procedures. This will ensure you are in the safest hands during surgery. Even if it is only one ear that is concerning you, the surgeon will perform the procedure on both ears so that they are symmetrical.
What should I expect during my ear pinning consultation?
Your ear pinning consultation will often last be 15 minutes to 1 hour long. During this consultation, your surgeon will discuss all aspects of the ear pinning surgery with you. They will cover your past and current medical history, which will include the following:
- Your current health status
- Any current or pre-existing medical conditions
- Your current use of medications, herbal remedies, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- Drug allergies
- Your previous surgical history
Your surgeon will also discuss various aspects of the procedure with you. In order to make sure you are fully informed, they will cover the following topics:
- Your reasons for wanting ear pinning surgery
- What you expect to achieve from the procedure and your desired outcome
- Which surgical approach is most suitable for you
- What the ear pinning procedure will involve
- The risks and complications of the procedure
After they cover these topics, your surgeon will then take photos of your ears for your medical record.
It is important for you to be honest and candid with your surgeon about what you would like to achieve from the procedure.
Questions to ask during your ear pinning consultation
It may be useful to ask the following questions during your ear pinning consultation:
- Do you think what I want to achieve from surgery is realistic?
- What can I do to help get the best results?
- Where will my scars be located?
- Can I see before and after pictures of similar procedures you have done in the past?
Your consultation time is your opportunity to ask your surgeon any questions you may have. It is also important for you to be honest and candid with your surgeon about what you would like to achieve from the procedure. At Avrupamed, our surgeons want to help you achieve the best results possible from your surgery, and therefore encourage you to be as honest as possible.
Risks & complications
What are the main risks and complications of an ear pinning surgery?
All surgeries come with potential risks. It is important to be aware of the ear pinning risks and complications before you have your procedure. These can include the following:
Scarring after an ear pinning procedure is unavoidable. This is because your surgeon must make surgical incisions to perform the surgery. The scars however, tend to be minimal and barely visible. They are strategically placed within the natural skin creases or along the hairline to make them less visible.
The extent of the scarring depends on your skin’s ability to heal. Some patients are more prone to severe types of scarring such as keloid or hypertrophic scars. Patients are usually already aware if they are susceptible to developing these types of scars.
In some cases, an ear pinning surgery may not be successful in pinning the ears back adequately. This may lead to the ears re-protruding. This can however, be corrected with revision surgery.
Asymmetry is a normal feature of all human faces. An ear pinning procedure aims to reposition the ears so that they are as proportionate and symmetrical to the rest of the face as possible. The healing process however, may result in slight discrepancies in symmetry.
When your surgeon adjusts the cartilage in the ear to a different position, the ears can become less flexible and stiff. If the ears do become stiff, this is usually temporary but it may take several months before they regain their flexibility.
There is always a risk that you may be unhappy with the final result of your ear pinning surgery. We therefore advise you to choose your surgeon carefully and making sure they understand your expectations.
Altered skin sensation
The surgical incisions that your surgeon makes may damage the nerves in the area that they operate on. This nerve damage can result in numbness or altered sensations (such as pins and needles) to develop in or around the ears. In most cases, the numbness will reduce over time, but this can take several months. In some rare cases, the numbness or altered sensation may persist and become permanent.
Bleeding & bruising
Minor bleeding and bruising is common after an ear pinning procedure. In some cases, a blood clot called a “haematoma”, may also form in the skin of the ear. This will often disperse naturally, but may sometimes need to removed with a small needle.
It is rare to experience severe bleeding, but if this does occur, it requires immediate medical attention.
After an ear pinning procedure, the permanent stitches that hold the ear in place may rise to the surface of the skin and irritate the skin in that area. This may lead to the affected part of the ear becoming inflamed. You may need to have further surgery to correct this.
Every surgery carries the risk of infection. These tend to be mild wound infections that can be treated easily with antibiotics. Infections can however, become more severe if you do not seek treatment. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of infection. You must flag up any of the following symptoms to your surgeon:
- A temperature of 38° C or more
- Foul-smelling pus or discharge from the drains or incision sites
- Redness that is starting to spread away from the incision site
- Increasing pain or discomfort that is not helped by painkillers
Preparing for your treatment
How can I prepare for an ear pinning procedure?
An ear pinning procedure is an elective surgery. This means you will have time to make arrangements to ensure that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible. The following list may help you with your ear pinning preparation:
As you will not be able to do any heavy lifting straight after your ear pinning surgery, it may be quite helpful to do a grocery shop beforehand. It may also be useful to cook some meals and put them in the freezer, so that you do not have to worry about cooking either!
It’s good to get chores like cleaning the house, doing the laundry and taking the bins out before you go in for your operation.
Children & pets
You will most likely need to arrange for family and friends to help you look after young children and pets for the first few days of your recovery.
As you will need to wear a headband for 5 to 7 days after your surgery, you will not be able to wear glasses. It may therefore be useful to buy prescription contact lenses before you have your surgery.
As you will have to wear a headband for the first 5 to 7 days after surgery, you should try to wear clothes that fasten from the front or back. This will be more comfortable for you as it prevents you pulling clothes over your head and displacing the bandage.
After your ear pinning procedure, you will not be able to drive. You must therefore arrange for a family member or friend to take you home, where you can recover. In general, you may not be able to drive for 5 days to 2 weeks after surgery. This does however, depend on your surgeon’s specific instructions.
To aid your recovery after surgery, you should eat foods that are high in protein and low in salt. Try to have as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. You should also aim to stay hydrated with caffeine-free drinks and lots of water.
Get plenty of extra pillows for your bed. Sleeping propped up after your surgery may be more comfortable for you. Resting and sleeping on your back, in an inclined position, may help reduce bruising and swelling after your ear pinning operation.
It is important to be aware that drinking large amounts of alcohol, having a high BMI, smoking, and using homeopathic or recreational drugs are all factors that can increase the risk of complications occurring. Smoking in particular increases the risk of infections and may delay wound healing. As our surgeons want to reduce this risk as much as possible, they strongly advise the following:
- Stop smoking and using all nicotine products for a minimum of 6 weeks before and after surgery.
- Stop taking all homeopathic medications at least 2 weeks prior to surgery. This includes: Aspirin, St John’s Wort, multivitamin preparations and any medications that include: ginger, ginkgo, garlic and cod liver oil.
Homeopathic medications can increase the bleeding and bruising you experience after surgery.
It is important for you to follow the advice that your surgeon gives you for your ear pinning preparation, as this is specific to your recovery.
What can I expect after an ear pinning surgery?
After your surgery, your surgeon will give you specific instructions for your ear pinning aftercare. You will usually be able to return home the same day as your ear pinning, but may need to spend a night in hospital for monitoring.
Swelling & bruising
It will be likely that you will experience pain, swelling and bruising around your ears and head after your procedure. This can take 1 to 2 weeks to settle, but you can use simple pain relief such as paracetamol to ease the pain. You should also try to keep your head elevated, sleep with your head propped up by pillows, and avoid bending over. These techniques can help reduce post-operative swelling.
Your surgeon will schedule a post-operative appointment for you to attend after your surgery. This will usually be made within 1 to 2 weeks after the ear pinning. During this appointment, your surgeon will:
- Examine the treatment area
- Remove any non-dissolvable sutures
- Replace any dressings
- Address any complications
- Discuss the next steps in care.
If you were given a general anaesthetic, it may affect your memory and concentration after surgery. This will however, only last 1 to 2 days. If you were given a local anaesthetic, you may feel some altered sensations around your ears, but this will eventually wear off.
Due to the effect of the anaesthetic, it is important for you to arrange for a responsible adult to stay with you for the first 24 hours after surgery.
Showering & bathing
You should be able to shower and bathe from the neck downwards after your surgery. It is however, very important to prevent the headband or the ears from getting wet for at least 1 week. Your surgeon will give you specific advice regarding showering and bathing.
After your ear pinning surgery, your ears and the permanent sutures holding them in place will be very sensitive and delicate. You will need to wear a tight headband, or compression garment, over your ears and head for around 5 to 7 days. Your surgeon may also advise you to continue wearing your headband whilst you are sleeping, for up to a month after the procedure. This is to help prevent your ears bending forwards whilst you are sleeping.
This headband is an important part of your ear pinning aftercare, and will help stabilise the position of the ears. It also prevents infection by covering the incision sites. It is very important that you do not get the headband wet, or remove it, until your surgeon advises you to do so.
Time off work
The time you will need to take off work after your ear pinning procedure will depend on the type of job you have. If you have an office job, you should take at least 1 week off work. If your job involves physical activity, you may need to take up to 2 weeks off work.
Return to sports & exercise
Your ears will still remain quite sensitive for a number of weeks after your procedure. It is therefore essential to follow your surgeon’s advice on when you can resume sports and exercise. The general guidelines regarding this are as follows:
During your first week, avoid all types of exercise and sports. Even minor aerobic sports at this stage may increase swelling.
Week 2 – 3
Two weeks after you ear pinning surgery, you may resume light cardio activities such as walking on a treadmill. Make sure that you begin slowly and do not exert yourself.
Week 3 – 4
Three weeks after your surgery, you can resume more active sports such as cycling, but continue to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercises.
Week 4 – 6
After four to six weeks have passed, you may resume all sports and exercises.
During your procedure, your surgeon will make the incisions in the natural skin creases or along the hairline. This allows your scars to be less visible.
To help further reduce the appearance of your scars, your surgeon may recommend some of the following techniques:
- Scar massage – gentle massage of the scar area may aid the healing process. You should only do this once your incision has fully healed.
- Silicone sheets, creams or gels – products containing silicone have been proven to help reduce the appearance of scars. Make sure you only use these products after your incision fully heals.
- Avoid sun exposure – make sure to avoid sunbathing or using sunbeds. If however you do expose your scar to the sun, make sure you use a high-factor sun screen. This protects the healing skin and avoids darkening the scar.
Although you will be able to see a difference to your ears immediately after your ear pinning surgery, it can take around 3 to 6 months to see the full cosmetic results. It is therefore important to be patient! Following your surgeon’s advice 0n ear pinning aftercare will help yield the best possible results.
The final results should be life-long. There may however be changes to the ear shape that are naturally seen with ageing. If any complications that alter the shape of the ear occur, such as re-protrusion, your surgeon can correct this with further surgery.
Make sure you follow your surgeon’s specific advice for your ear pinning aftercare.
Ear pinning FAQs
Below you can find some of the most common ear pinning FAQs:
Will the NHS pay for my ear pinning?
A cosmetic ear pinning procedure is not normally available on the NHS. It may however, be carried out if there is evidence of significant psychological distress.
Do I need a GP referral for cosmetic surgery?
Our Avrupamed surgeons are happy to see you for an ear pinning consultation without a referral from your GP. They may however, contact your GP for details of your medical history.
What is the difference between Otoplasty & Pinnaplasty?
There is no difference between the two procedures. They are two different names that describe the same surgery, and are both also known as “ear pinning”.
When can I wear glasses again?
As you will have to wear a headband after the procedure, you cannot wear glasses at the same time. You will need to wear the headband day and night for 5 to 7 days, and for up to a month after surgery whilst you are sleeping. You should therefore wait until you no longer need to wear your headband to resume wearing your glasses again. This is so that you do not alter the newly set position and shape of your ears. This will usually be 3 weeks after surgery, but can take longer. You should therefore consider buying prescription contact lenses for this time period.
Will an ear pinning affect my hearing?
It is extremely unlikely that an ear pinning procedure will affect your hearing. The ear is made up of 3 parts: the outer ear (the pinna), the middle ear and the inner ear. All 3 parts contribute to hearing, but it is mainly the middle and inner ear that affect it.
The pinna is the only part that your surgeon will operate on during your ear pinning. The role of the pinna is simply to carry the sound waves into the middle and inner ear to allow you to hear. It is therefore unlikely that surgery to this area will affect your hearing. Choosing a highly experienced BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will greatly reduce the risk of potential complications.
What is earfold surgery?
Earfold surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can correct prominent ears. It involves the insertion of an implant into the back of the ear that “folds” the cartilage back into a less protruding position.
It can be a suitable alternative to an otoplasty for both children and adults with prominent ears, but it cannot however, change the size of the ears.
Effect of drugs
Smoking, taking recreational drugs and consuming large amounts of alcohol are all factors that increase the risk of complications occurring during and after surgery. We therefore strongly recommend that you stop smoking and using any nicotine products for at least 6 weeks before and after your operation.
If this ear pinning FAQs page has not been able to answer your question, give us a call so we can help!