What is otoplasty (ear reshaping)?
Otoplasty is the surgery to correct abnormalities in the structure of the ear. The surgery is often targeted for children who are age 4 or over. Some adults also choose to have ear reshaping.
Deformity of the ears may cause social anxiety in all age ranges and may make children vulnerable to teasing. It is important to listen to all your child’s frustrations if he or she has been ridiculed at school or in other social environments.
Often children are born with large ear lobes, protruding or drooping ears, small constricted ears, or ears with missing cartilage. However, traumatic deformities of the ear can also occur (for example a car wreck, dog bite or torn earlobes).
Otoplasty or similar procedures can correct many ear deformities. These procedures aim to improve appearance and self-confidence, but are not typically used to address hearing.
If you are the parent of a child with uniquely shaped ears, an otoplasty can often correct this issue.
How do I prepare for an otoplasty (ear reshaping)?
In your consultation, you will be able to discuss all your expectations with your surgeon. Together, you can decide which option is best for you or your child. You should plan to stay home for at least five days after the surgery. Children should stay home from school for at least one week and limit their activities.
The actual surgery will typically last one to three hours, depending on the complexity of the procedure for your particular case. Your surgeon will detail all of this for you.
If you are an adult, your surgeon may use local anesthesia with a sedative or general anesthesia. A child will typically receive general anesthesia to ensure that he or she will be still and comfortable throughout the procedure.
If the patient is receiving general anesthesia, he or she is not allowed to eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery, or the morning of the surgery. The last meal the night before surgery should be very light.
You should be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Do not wear a shirt with a restrictive collar; ideally, you should wear a button down shirt that you do not have to pull over your head. This is especially important for children. You want to avoid any unnecessary impact to the surgery site.
Most surgeries will be completed within a few hours and you can go home the same day. It’s a good idea to have someone with you who can drive you home and stay with you the first night.
Risks / Benefits
What are the complications and side effects from an otoplasty (ear reshaping)?
As with any surgery, there are risks. With otoplasty, more uncommon complications can include infection or bleeding. However, complications are rare and most people are extremely satisfied with the results. You should expect to experience mild to moderate pain; your surgeon will prescribe a painkiller if necessary. A prescription antibiotic in some cases is prescribed.
Contact your doctor immediately if:
- You develop a fever.
- You experience excessive bleeding or swelling.
- If, for any reason, you have any trauma to your surgical site.
Recovery and Outlook
What is recovery like after an otoplasty (ear reshaping)?
When you are sent home, you will have a dressing on the ear. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions on how to handle the dressing.
You will have to wear your dressing for about one week, but your surgeon will give you detailed instructions on when it can come off and how to best manage it while you sleep.
You will have scars at the incision site. These will fade over time.
Does insurance cover otoplasty (ear reshaping)?
Your insurance carrier may provide coverage if an otoplasty is being used to correct a deformity or congenital abnormality. It's important that you begin talking to your insurance carrier early, so you can understand exactly what the company will cover. In most cases, your surgeon can write a letter to your carrier explaining your case.
If you are merely having the surgery performed for cosmetic purposes, insurance coverage probably does not apply. In this case, it's important to receive your doctor's charges in writing and to discuss payment options.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy