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  You are at: Procedure info > Cosmetic or ENT surgery > Ear reshaping

Ear reshaping (pinnaplasty, ear pinning)
















ear reshaping / pinning

Also known as 'ear pinning', pinnaplasty can have a very positive effect. Prominent ears can cause great concern, especially to children who may be bullied by others about their ears. It is very rare that the ears themselves will be too large - the problem is usually caused by the shape of the underlying cartilage that gives the ear its structure. Commonly the outer fold of the ear is absent or flatter than normal and the root of the ear may also be deeper than usual. These effects will make the ear stand out, sometimes quite noticeably. Surgery aims to counteract these effects.


How are the ears reshaped in a pinnaplasty?

There are many different ways to reshape the ears, and methods vary according to surgeon preference and shape of ear. There are, however, two commonly used methods. Both methods access the ear cartilage through an incision made in the groove behind the ear. One method then uses permanent stitches to pull the ear cartilage towards the side of the scalp, giving a flatter appearance to the ear. The other method exposes the front of the ear cartilage in order to place numerous scoring cuts across the cartilage surface. This allows the cartilage to bend and appear less prominent. Occasionally a combination of these methods is used.

The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic in the young, whilst older children or adults can have local anaesthesia.

A head bandage is commonly used after this procedure, which holds the ears in their new place whilst they heal. It is often advised that children should have this procedure at the start of the school holidays so that the ears are healed by the time they return to school.


Are there any age limits to having a pinnaplasty?

Ear reshaping


There are no upper age limits, but pinnaplasty should not be performed in the very young. The ears continue to grow during the first few years of life, and are mostly grown by around 5 years old. Pinnaplasty before this age, therefore, is not advisable. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the operation requires the wearing of a head bandage for at least a week after, and will feel sore. The child should be of an age where they will co-operate with the bandaging, and understand why they are having the procedure.


Many parents feel that it is better that the child has the procedure as young as possible in order to avoid bullying when they start school. Whilst this is a reasonable view, many people also have the opinion that the child is much happier to have the operation if they are at an age when they understand why they are having the procedure, or indeed have themselves asked to 'have their ears fixed'. Appropriate timing is a matter that varies between individuals, and can be further discussed with your surgeon.



Can ear reshaping change hearing?

In a word, no. Hearing should not be changed at all with standard pinnaplasty.


What are the risks involved with pinnaplasty?

  • Scarring - whilst scars usually start red, then turn into a thin and pale line, some people can naturally form scars that are raised, itchy and red (hypertrophic scars) or even very lumpy and enlarging (keloid scars). Whilst such scars can be treated, they may be difficult to resolve and can leave a lumpy or stretched area.

  • Infection - minor infections can be treated with antibiotics. More serious infections can, however, affect the ear cartilage leading to a mis-shapen ear. Fortunately this is rare.

  • Bleeding - occasionally a large clot may form in the ear after surgery. Whilst small clots may be left to resolve in time, larger ones may require a return to the operating theatre to remove them.

  • Asymmetry - whilst the surgeon will try to get both ears looking exactly the same, slight differences may exist, and rarely this may even require a further procedure.

  • Recurrence - if stitches have been used to hold the cartilage in place, they can occasionally break free. This is often caused by trauma, such as the ear being pulled during sport. With the retaining stitch no longer holding the cartilage, the ear now springs back to its former position. A further procedure will be needed to reposition the ear if required.

  • Skin problems - the head bandage is quite tight, and can rarely cause damage to the ear skin. This can potentially lead to a mis-shapen ear and need for further procedures.


Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is for guidance only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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