All About Otoplasty

Otoplasty is most often performed to position protruding ears closer to the head — a procedure more commonly known as “ear pinning” — but will also correct an abnormal ear shape or to reduce the size of excessively large ears. A limited procedure may also achieve earlobe repair,  addressing earlobes that are stretched out, elongated, or torn. Otoplasty is a great option for anyone who is unhappy with their ears, has suffered trauma or injury to the ears, or who gets teased about their ears. 

What CanEar Surgery Address?

  • Abnormal ear cartilage shape (lop ear, Stahl’s ear, etc.)
  • Cauliflower ear (resulting from repeated trauma and multiple hematomas)
  • Large, stretched, or torn earlobes
  • Earlobes with large creases and wrinkles
  • Microtia (abnormally small ears)
  • Accessory ear cartilage (present as small protrusions in front of the ear)

Ear Surgery Details

Cosmetic ear surgery generally takes 1-2 hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used will depend on the age of the patient, as ear surgery is often performed on young children. Typically, general anesthesia is recommended for younger patients, and local anesthesia with sedation suffices for older children and adults. Otoplasty begins with a small incision being made behind the ear in the natural crease where the ear meets the head. The cartilage is then shaped and sutured to achieve the desired appearance.

In some types of otoplasty, skin is removed, but the cartilage is left intact and merely folded back and sutured to create a less protruding ear.

After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, sutures and a bandage are used to hold the ears in position until healing is complete. In cases of asymmetry in which one ear may be more malformed than the other or where only one is significantly misshapen, both ears may still be operated on to achieve better symmetry.

Portions of or complete new ears can be surgically constructed for patients who are missing them due to causes that include birth defects, severe injuries, and skin cancers.

Recovery After Ear Surgery

Although the ears may ache or throb for a few days, a patient usually feels close to normal within hours of the surgery’s completion. Medication is prescribed to help alleviate any discomfort. 

A few days after otoplasty, the bandages around the head are replaced with a surgical dressing that is worn for about a week, at which point the stitches may need to be removed. Otoplasty patients should avoid sleeping on their sides for the first two weeks after surgery. At the 2 week mark, most patients are able to return to their normal routines. After the ears have healed completely, they usually have faint scars hidden on their posterior surfaces. The scars typically fade with time and, because of their strategic placement, are virtually invisible.

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Risks and Complications

Complications of otoplasty are rare and usually minor. A small percentage of otoplasty patients develop a blood clot on the ear or an infection in the suture line. These issues may resolve on their own or can be treated medically with limited intervention or antibiotics. Other possible complications include a change in skin sensation at the surgical site. There is also a possibility that a patient will not be satisfied with the appearance of the ears after surgery. Once the final result is achieved, it’s also possible that the ears may not match exactly, as ears are not entirely symmetrical naturally.

Candidates for Otoplasty

Individuals of any age who feel self-conscious about their ears may be good candidates for otoplasty, although it is typically performed on children between 5-15 years old. Ears are almost fully developed by the age of 5, so surgery in early childhood can help create self-confidence when a child begins going to school and will also help them to avoid being teased. It’s important for those considering otoplasty to be in good health and have realistic expectations for the procedure. 

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Earlobe Reduction

Earlobe reduction is a minor surgery that addresses overly long or large earlobes. Dr. Hutchinson performs a quick, outpatient procedure that results in more balanced, less noticeable earlobes and an improved overall appearance.

Large, long, or pendulous earlobes are occasionally genetic but most often develop with age (due to increasing skin laxity) as well as with prolonged earring use. Dr. Hutchinson can correct earlobes that sag, have extra hanging skin, or are simply too large for the rest of the ear. Recovery time is moderate (typically only one week) and results are permanent.

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Types of Earlobe Reduction 

Dr. Hutchinson performs earlobe reduction surgery in her Upper East Side office. More extensive procedures are performed at her office-based fully AAAASF accredited operating room, which offers the highest quality of patient care and safety.

There are multiple methods for earlobe reduction, but the most commonly used methods are wedge earlobe reduction or peripheral margin earlobe reduction

For wedge earlobe reduction, Dr. Hutchinson will remove a triangle shaped portion from the earlobe and use expert suturing to leave behind the least visible scar possible while also ensuring that the edges are symmetric and smooth.  The procedure is performed under local anesthesia. 

During peripheral margin earlobe reduction, Dr. Hutchinson will remove excess skin and tissue from the bottom edge of the earlobes. After injection with local anesthesia and marking of the lobes, she will remove the hanging skin and then stitch the wound. 
Earlobe reduction takes approximately half an hour per side.

Who is a Candidate for Earlobe Reduction?

Adults of middle age and older are the most common patients for earlobe reduction.

Anyone who chooses earlobe reduction must be in overall good health and should not have any history of keloids or severe scarring.

Recovery After Earlobe Reduction

After an earlobe reduction, there will be swelling for about one week. It’s at this point that most patients also have their stitches removed. Common and temporary side effects include minimal discomfort, itching, and numbness. It’s important to avoid strenuous activity for 48 hours following earlobe reduction surgery, and to not put any pressure (including during sleep) on the lobes until the stitches are removed. 

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Torn Earlobe Repair

Torn earlobes can occur for a variety of reasons and are usually due to gradual stretching out of the holes within earlobes from wearing earrings in pierced ears. Whether your torn earlobe is a new or old injury, Dr. Hutchinson offers different techniques for surgical repair. It is a minor surgery that takes less than 1 hour and recovery is very minimal. 

What Causes Earlobes to Tear? 


The majority of earlobe tears occur due to earrings being pulled on and may result in either a partial tear, where the hole is elongated or a complete tear where the soft tissue is split through to the edge of the earlobe, resulting in a cleft.

Micro Tears

Earrings can create tiny tears in the skin that may eventually cause elongation or complete ripping of the earlobes. This happens especially when heavy earrings are frequently worn or when earrings are worn during daily tasks and activities.

Ear Gauges

Ear gauges create increasingly large holes within the earlobes. When ear gauges are removed, the earlobes are significantly stretched out or often even torn. Repairing earlobes after this type of soft tissue damage requires more complex plastic surgical techniques to recreate a smooth earlobe contour.

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Torn Earlobe Repair Procedure Details

The restoration of torn earlobes can be achieved in a convenient in office procedure. Only local anesthetic is needed and treatment takes 1 hour. To correct your torn earlobes, Dr. Hutchinson will remove the excess skin, smooth the edges, and carefully suture the torn area closed. The area that was previously torn should be fully recovered in 1-2 weeks. Some swelling is to be expected. Make sure to keep the sutured areas very clean during the healing process, and be careful when shampooing your hair. Dr. Hutchinson typically removes the sutures one week after surgery.

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Ear Surgery with Dr. Hutchinson

Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Olivia Hutchinson has been delivering remarkable results to cosmetic patients from NYC and beyond for over two decades. All operations are performed either in our fully accredited, office based AAAASF operating room or in a hospital setting. It is Dr. Hutchinson’s goal to exceed her patients’ expectations, work with extreme attention to detail, and provide the highest level of care for each individual patient. If you’re interested in learning more about ear surgery for you or your child, please contact us online or call us at (212) 452-1400 to schedule a consultation.

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