Otoplasty is a surgical procedure to correct the outstanding ear surgery. It does not make the ear smaller, but does re-position the ear closer to the skull, making it appear smaller. An ellipse of skin is removed from the underside of the ear, allowing the surgeon access to reshape the cartilage, or framework of the ear. In most instances, a portion of the cartilage is removed or softened with small surgical incisions. Permanent sutures are then put into place to help the ear retain its new shape. The dressing is usually removed after one week. A ski band or headband is worn at night for six weeks to protect the ears during sleep.

Procedure:Set prominent ears back closer to the head, or reduce the size of large ears. Most often done on children between the ages of 4 and 14 years. (Occasionally covered by insurance.)
Length:2 to 3 hours.
Anesthesia:Young children: usually general. Older children or adults: general or local, with sedation.
In/Outpatient:Usually outpatient.
Side Effects:Temporary throbbing, aching, swelling, redness, numbness.
Risks:Infection of cartilage. Excessive scarring. Blood clot that may need to be drained. Mismatched or artificial- looking ears. Recurrence of the protrusion, requiring repeat surgery.
Recovery:Back to work or school: 5 to 7 days. Strenuous activity, contact sports: 1 to 2 months.
Duration ofUsually permanent.

At the present time, this surgical procedure is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) through the age of 17. The surgery is considered a cosmetic procedure for an adult, and would not receive any coverage, unless there is a co-existing birth defect of the ear.

Otoplasty is usually performed under a general anesthetic in children. The ideal time to operate on a child’s ear is generally considered to be at 5 or 6 years of age. Most of the growth of the ear has been obtained by that age. With modern anesthetic techniques, there is little cause for concern about the effects of a general anesthetic on a child of that age.

Adults are usually operated on under local anesthetic with intravenous sedation to help relieve tension and anxiety. The surgery is done on an outpatient basis, and the patient may go home the same day.