Spotlight Procedure: Ear Surgery

When most people think of facial plastic surgery, nose jobs and face lifts are the first things to come to mind, but even though those procedures are among the most popular forms of cosmetic plastic surgery performed today, they really only represent the tip of the iceberg.  What we think of as the face is, in fact, a combination of very specific regions and features, each of which can be subtly shaped to improve the overall appearance using a variety of different cosmetic facial plastic surgery techniques.  One area that is often overlooked, but which can have a significant impact, is the appearance of the ears.  In this month’s “Spotlight Procedure” blog, I will talk about otoplasty, a plastic surgery procedure designed to restore or enhance the appearance of an ear or the ears.

Spotlight Procedure Ear Surgery

What can Ear Surgery accomplish?

The most common goal of otoplasty, or ear surgery, is to correct the appearance of ears that stick out unusually far from the sides of the head, a procedure that is sometimes called “ear pinning.”  In some cases, the cartilage that will eventually form the ears fails to fold properly during the early stages of fetal development.  Without this “missing fold” in the cartilage, the ears will stick out rather than lie flat.  Through otoplasty, I can recreate the missing cartilage folds and bring the ears closer to the head for a more natural appearance.

How is Ear Surgery performed?

Techniques to reduce the projection of the ears do not literally involve “pinning” the ears back.  Instead the skin and cartilage framework that makes up the outer portion of the ear, which is called the pinna or auricle, is surgically sculpted and reshaped to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result.  I have published several articles that detail my own cartilage-sparing otoplasty technique1, which involves recreating the missing folds in the cartilage to bring the ears closer to the head.

Who is a candidate for Ear Surgery?

Surgery to address overly protuberant ears is best performed on children between the ages of five and seven, when the ear has nearly reached adult size and the cartilage is thick enough to safely support sutures, but before the child is old enough for the issue to cause serious social difficulties.  However, ear surgery on adolescent or adult patients is possible as well, either to correct issues that were not addressed during childhood or to treat conditions acquired later in life, either through trauma or the simple passage of time.  In fact, according to statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than two-thirds of cosmetic otoplasty procedures are performed on patients over the age of twenty.

Every patient is unique, and ear surgery is only one of the many different issues that facial plastic surgery can address.  This is why I believe that a thorough facial plastic surgery consultation, including a discussion of expectations and computerized imaging, should be an essential part of any cosmetic plastic surgery procedure.  If you have any additional questions about how best to address your own individual facial concerns, or if you are interested in any of the facial plastic surgery procedures I perform, please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, to schedule a consultation.  Don’t forget to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.

  1. Burstein, FD.: Cartilage-Sparing Complete Otoplasty Technique: A Ten Year Experience with 100 Patients. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. 2003 Jul;14(4):521-5.