Ear Re-shaping (Otoplasty)



Prominent or mis-shapen ears are very common and are usually inherited from a parent. For many people, this amounts to only a minor inconvenience. For others, prominent ears can cause a great deal of distress. Some children with prominent ears suffer unkind remarks and teasing at school whilst some adults feel that prominent ears can detract from the overall harmony of their facial appearance or prevent certain hairstyle choices. Ear reshaping can bring about a dramatic improvement in these cases. The procedure is also sometimes known as otoplasty or pinnaplasty.

Otoplasty Ear Reshaping and Prominent Ear Surgery with London Plastic Surgeon Stephen Hamilton

Frequently asked questions about ear reshaping and correction

Am I suitable for prominent ear correction or ear reshaping?
Will there be scars after prominent ear correction or ear reshaping?

Can prominent ear correction be carried out in children?
How do I prepare for ear reshaping surgery ?
What does the ear reshaping surgery procedure involve?

What happens after the ear reshaping / prominent ear correction?

Is ear reshaping surgery safe? What are the risks?
How do I arrange a consultation about ear re-shaping with Mr Hamilton in London, UK?


Am I suitable for prominent ear correction or ear reshaping ?

The most common ear "deformity" is prominent ears which usually occur due to incomplete folding of the ear cartilage or because of a deep hollow in the “bowl” part of the ear. In many cases, a combination of the two “deformities” is present. Careful surgical correction can address both these issues, creating a more natural curve to the ear and a shallower “bowl” if necessary. Mr Hamilton will assess your suitability for treatment at your consultation and give you a clear idea of the results you can hope to achieve.

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Will there be scars after ear reshaping or prominent ear correction?

Small incisions are required behind the ears to allow the re-shaping and stitching of the cartilage to be carried out. Fortunately, in the vast majority of patients, these scars are in a hidden position and usually settle to be almost invisible.

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Can prominent ear correction be done in children?

Yes, this type of surgery is carried out very frequently in children. Usually, it’s best to wait until the child is at least 4 or 5 since the cartilage of the ear is easier to work with than in younger children, the child is better able to understand the procedure and will keep the postoperative bandage on!

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How do I prepare for ear reshaping surgery?

Where possible, it is important to avoid aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Brufen) and diclofenac (Voltarol) for two weeks pre-operatively. These drugs reduce the ability of the blood to clot and can make bleeding more of a problem during and after surgery.

Smoking can possibly increase the likelihood of wound problems in this type of surgery and abstaining from smoking for at least 2 weeks preoperatively and postoperatively is a sensible precaution.

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What does the ear reshaping procedure involve?

What type of anaesthetic is used in ear correction?

Otoplasty can be carried out under general or local anaesthetic. In younger children, it’s usually necessary to use a general anaesthetic since the procedure can take up to 1½ hours and patient cooperation is essential under local anaesthetic. In adults and older children, both methods can be used, though many opt for general anaesthetic.

What happens when I come into hospital for prominent ear correction or reshaping?

You will be admitted to hospital on the day of surgery and Mr Hamilton will come to re-discuss the procedure and to plan and to mark the exact extent of the surgery. If you are having a general anaesthetic, you will be seen by our consultant anaesthetist who will discuss the anaesthetic with you and answer any questions you may have.

How long does an ear reshaping operation take?

The length of the procedure depends on the extent of correction required. Typically, the surgery takes about 1 to 1½  hours.

What happens during the ear operation ?

With you asleep under general anaesthetic, local anaesthetic is placed in the area to be treated to reduce any postoperative discomfort. Mr Hamilton will then make a small incision behind the ear to allow access to the underlying cartilage. By a combination of surgical moulding and sutures, the ear cartilage is re-shaped to give the desired degree of correction. Our consultant anaesthetist will then gently wake you before you are returned to your room on the ward.

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What happens after an ear re-shaping operation?

Usually, ear correction is carried out as a daycase procedure and you will be able to go home in the evening after your surgery. Some patients prefer to spend a night in hospital and in this case you will be able to go home the following morning. The bandage is left in place until your first postoperative outpatient visit.

Mr. Hamilton will usually see you back in the consultation room 5-7 days after surgery to check that all is well and to reduce the dressing. Usually, only dissolving sutures are used, though some of these may need trimming when you come back to the clinic. Thereafter, you will be advised to wear a tennis headband at night for a further 5 weeks or so to protect the healing tissue. A further follow up visit is planned 3 months after surgery.

Is ear reshaping surgery painful?

Ear correction is not usually a very painful procedure. Most patients can go about their normal activities fairly quickly and only moderately strong painkillers are required.

How quickly will I recover after ear correction surgery?

Most patients can get back to normal almost immediately (though a bulky headbandage is in place supporting the reshaped ears). A few days off school is usually advisable for children and some stay off until the bandage is removed. Usually, vigorous sports or gym activities are best avoided for 4-6 weeks after surgery.

How long do the results of prominent ear surgery or reshaping last?

After the initial swelling has settled, the new shape of the ear becomes apparent. Very occasionally, some prominence of the ear can return but in the vast majority of patients the results are permanent and no change is likely to occur in the future.

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Safety and potential risks of prominent ear correction or reshaping

The great majority of patients undergoing ear correction in the hands of an experienced surgeon achieve good results with a rapid recovery. However, in a small proportion some complications are a possibility:

  • Unfavourable scars – In some patients, especially those of Afro-Caribbean origin, scars can be thicker than expected or become raised. In the vast majority of cases, these settle spontaneously but occasionally other measures to improve the scar may be necessary. Most patients find that the scars settle well though all individuals are different and in some cases, scars can take many months to settle. Mr Hamilton will advise you on massage techniques to help speed up the rate at which the scars mature. Scars, of course, never disappear and some form of scar will always be present.
  • Infection – fortunately, infection is rare in this type of surgery and the risk is minimised by careful surgical technique and the use of a dose of antibiotic before surgery commences.
  • Asymmetry – in many individuals without prominent ears, a degree of asymmetry is present in the ears. After prominent ear correction, a degree of asymmetry is still likely to be present, particularly if the ears were very different before surgery.
  • Haematoma – Rarely, small blood vessels in the wound may bleed after the surgery leading to a collection of blood under the wound (a haematoma) which needs to be released and washed out before resuturing the wound. If this problem arises, it is typically on the day of surgery and does not affect the final result.
  • Recurrent deformity – in a small proportion of cases, the correction is not maintained in the long term. Careful attention to detail during surgery helps minimise the possibility of recurrent prominence of the ear.


Ear re-shaping is a very effective operation and patient satisfaction tends to be very high. If you feel you would benefit from this procedure, Mr Hamilton will be happy to discuss the surgical options at your consultation.

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