Ear reshaping (pinnaplasty and otoplasty)

What is ear shaping (pinnaplasty)?

Pinnaplasty, also known as otoplasty, is an ear reshaping surgical procedure to correct prominent or "bat" ears.

What does ear reshaping involve?

Ear reshaping can be carried out under a general anaesthetic and either requires a one night stay in hospital, or in some cases, can be performed on a day case basis. Alternatively, pinnaplasty can be carried out under local anaesthetic on a day case basis. Your surgeon will advise which anaesthetic is the most appropriate in your case.

The surgeon makes incisions behind the ear. The cartilage may be re-shaped, folded or some of it may be removed. Sutures are used to hold the ear in its new position. Once surgery is complete, the incisions behind the ear are closed with sutures.

Following the procedure you will be taken from the operating theatre into the recovery suite where you will be looked after until you are fully awake. After this, you will return to your room, where nursing staff will check your dressings and monitor your pulse and blood pressure at regular intervals.

The anaesthetist will prescribe painkillers and you should take these regularly for the first few days or so. Pain can slow down your recovery, so it is important to discuss any discomfort with the nursing staff.

There may be a drip in one of your arms - this is to keep you well hydrated. This will be removed when you are able to drink a satisfactory amount.

You will have a dressing, usually a tight bandage, positioned around your head, covering your ears.

Ear surgery recovery time

After pinnaplasty you are likely to have some pain/discomfort, swelling and bruising. These are temporary and should subside after the first few weeks.

Your surgeon will advise you as to how long you will be required to keep your dressings/bandages in place - this can be up to two weeks. Once this dressing is removed, you may be advised to wear a smaller and lighter headband to protect your ears. Your surgeon will inform you as to how long you will need to wear the headband and whether it is to be worn day and night.

You will receive a post-operative telephone call from the specialist nurse one to two days after your discharge home to ascertain your progress and well-being. You will also receive a follow-up appointment at which your surgeon will assess your progress and give advice on when you can resume your normal activities.

You must avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting and swimming for approximately six weeks after surgery.

The length of time you will need to take off work will depend on your type of employment, but is usually a minimum of one week.

What risks should I know about?

Pinnaplasty is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.

The possible complications of any surgery can include an unexpected reaction to a general anaesthetic, excessive bleeding, infection and developing a blood clot (usually in a vein in the lower leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis).

It is possible for a blood clot to develop in the ear after surgery. This may dissolve naturally, but if this is not the case, the clot may need to be softened with ear drops or be drawn out with a needle. Very rarely, there can be loss of skin near the operated area - this may require repair with a skin graft.

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