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All Ears: What You Need to Know About Pinnaplasty

Written by Professor Iain Bruce for Doctify

What is a Pinnaplasty?

Some people are born with prominent ears that cause them significant psychological distress and lower self-esteem.

Can you Describe the Procedure?

There are two main surgical techniques utilised for correcting prominent ears: ‘suture’ and ‘cartilage scoring’.

Both are established methods and your surgeon will use the technique that gives them the best cosmetic result. I personally favour the suturing technique ( using specialised Mustarde & Concha-Mastoid (C-M) sutures) which involves the placement of non-absorbable sutures into the ear cartilage to change the shape of the ear. The operation is performed via an incision on the back of the external ear. The cartilage can then be re-shaped, folded and occasionally some of it may be removed to create a better cosmetic shape. The sutures are placed into the cartilage to counteract the elastic properties that try to ‘spring’ the ear back to its original position.

What is the Recovery Time?

Pinnaplasty surgery is usually carried out as a day-case procedure. Before leaving the operating theatre, a head bandage is applied which stays in place for one week.

After one week the head bandage is removed in the outpatient clinic and the ear is examined for infection. For 4-6 weeks thereafter, it is recommended that a soft elastic headband is worn at night to protect the ears when rolling over in bed. Contact sports should be avoided for 3-4 months.

Who are the Most Common Recipients of Pinnaplasty?

Parents may choose to seek a surgical assessment of their child’s prominent ears if the child is becoming increasingly self-conscious and/or being teased by classmates. If this is not happening, it may be better to delay the decision until the child is older and fully able to be part of the decision-making process.

Likewise, adults may be self-conscious about the appearance of their ears and choose to undergo surgical correction of their prominent ears. Adults may undergo pinnaplasty at any age, but it is recommended that children should be older than 5-6 years of age. By this age, the ear has grown sufficiently and the cartilages have stiffened enough.

Are there any Risks with this Procedure?

As in all operations, there are potential risks associated with pinnaplasty surgery. However, it is very unusual to experience complications after pinnaplasty and your surgeon will discuss them with you before surgery.

Bleeding can occur after the operation but the risk is reduced by the surgeon checking that there is no bleeding evident at the end of the operation and the application of a head bandage.

Infection may cause the scar behind the ear to become unsightly and can very occasionally cause thickening of the soft tissues of the ear (‘cauliflower ear’). Meticulous surgical technique and antibiotics keep the risk of infection to a minimum.

The skin behind the ear may be numb after surgery but sensation will usually return to normal, or near normal. After surgery, the ear may not be perfectly symmetrical but it is extremely uncommon that patients require revision surgery. Late recurrence of the original ear prominence is also very rare.

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