I had otoplasty surgery to pin back my ears performed by Dr. Armstrong. The surgery was so simple and the recovery so quick, I wish I had done it years ago! The staff at Richmond ENT & Facial Plastics addressed my concerns and were easy to work with.

– Joe A., 68 year old male

An Otoplasty is the medical term to describe cosmetic surgery of the ears.  The purpose of an Otoplasty is to change the size, position, or shape of the ears. One might choose to have an Otoplasty for various reasons, such as an injury or birth defect.

It can be performed at any age after the ears have reached full size, usually by five or six years of age. Having the surgery at a young age has two benefits: the cartilage is more pliable, making it easier to reshape, and the child will experience the psychological benefits of the cosmetic improvement.

The surgery begins with an incision behind the ear, in the fold where the ear joins the head. The surgeon may remove skin and cartilage or trim and reshape the cartilage. In addition to correcting protrusion, ears may also be reshaped, reduced in size, or made more symmetrical. The cartilage is then secured in the new position with permanent stitches which will anchor the ear while healing occurs.

Usually about two hours or less.

We can either perform the procedure in-office under local anesthesia with an accompanying oral sedative or the procedure can be performed under general anesthesia at Stony Point Surgery Center (depending on patient preference).

Depending on whether the surgery is performed in our office or under general anesthesia at Stony Point Surgery Center, the total procedure cost(s) typically range anywhere from $2,000 up to about $4,800.

Left: Initial Visit; Right: After Otoplasty
Left: Initial Visit; Right: After Otoplasty

Risks of Otoplasty

Soreness and Bruising is expected for 2-3 weeks

Asymmetry in the placement of one’s ears cannot always be fixed through surgery; also, the ear placement can shift during the healing process

Overcorrection is a possibility since sometimes surgery can make the ears look unnaturally “pinned back”

Pain is usually mild, but may require narcotic pain relievers

Infection is possible; follow all post-operative instructions regarding wound care

Numbness, tingling or altered sensation is expected near the incision site for several months

Scars will be placed as discretely as possible

Anesthesia in an otherwise healthy individual has risks comparable to those of operating an automobile

Before Your Surgery

Things you may need:

  • Comfortable button-down or zippered shirts
  • Non-irritating baby shampoo & body soap
  • Prescription pain medication (if prescribed)
  • Bendable straws, disposable dishes, & microwavable meals
  • Ready to eat, healthy snacks (low sodium & high fiber to reduce additional swelling or constipation due to pain medications)

Prep a designated resting-space where you can spend your first few days of recovery. Here are some items to include:

  • A comfortable chair that can recline
  • Clear path to the bathroom
  • TV, laptop, or audiobook for entertainment

Additional actions to take in preparing for your recovery:

  • Stock your fridge & finish all laundry
  • Place all food items, toiletries, clothes, etc. above waist level to prevent the need to bend over
  • Check your calendar
  • Pay your bills
  • Get someone to help with pets or children

Avoid using any agent that may induce bleeding or bruising beginning 1 week prior to treatment  (unless medically necessary)

Arrange to bring a designated driver to your appointment as rebound swelling might affect your vision

Day of Surgery

Getting Ready Tips – Shower the morning of your procedure and wash your hair twice. Do not wear any earrings. Make sure your face is clean and completely free of any makeup. Wear a comfortable top that is easy to wash & that doesn’t need to be removed over the head.

Arrive as instructed by SPSC for procedures that will take place in the OR

Your designated driver must arrive to the facility with you for check-in

After Your Surgery

Things to Remember:

To keep pressure off your ears, try not to sleep on your side

Take a bath instead of a shower

Wash hair with non-irritating shampoo (Ex. baby shampoo) after one week has passed

Opt for cold or lukewarm water when cleaning & lower heat hair dryer setting

Avoid the following until skin has fully healed – tanning, hot water, excessive perspiration, or strenuous exercise

Consume a nutrient rich diet and refrain from smoking in order to accelerate the recovery process

Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for discomfort

Fever, Chills, Blistering, oozing, yellow/cloudy drainage, or pain that is not relieved by Acetaminophen are not expected & need to be addressed

Recovery Timeline

First Night

  • Keep compression dressing on for the first 24 hours after the procedure

Week 1 to 3

  • Swelling will increase day by day throughout the first week
  • Expect to see bruising, discoloration, and a small amount of drainage
  • Potential numbness and unusual pins and needles sensation in the ears
  • Avoid scratching or picking at incision site – it will normally become itchy as the skin heals
  • Keep head elevated as much as possible
  • Wear headband at all times in order to keep ears in their new position
  • Use a Q-tip soaked with hydrogen peroxide to trace over the suture lines (3x daily)
  • Use Q-tip to apply Bacitracin to the suture lines
  • Avoid heavy lifting, contact sports, hard foods, bending over, pull over clothing, or prolonged sun exposure
  • Most patients return to work by around day 10

Week 4 to 5

  • Wear headband each night
  • Most bruising and discoloration has subsided

Week 6

  • Most swelling has subsided
  • May resume contact sports
  • Headband no longer needed