Adult Ear Reshaping

Ear reshaping, or otoplasty, improves the appearance of a patient's ears. Although an otoplasty does not affect hearing, it can provide great psychological benefits to anyone who has been teased about the size or shape of their ears, has had a serious ear injury, or simply wants to improve their appearance.

Otoplasty typically serves two functions: setting prominent ears back closer to the head and reducing the size of large ears. Ear surgery may also be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Large or protruding ears
  • Lop ear (top of the ear folds downward or inward)
  • Cupped ear (a small ear)
  • Shell ear (no outer curve in the cartilage)
  • Large, stretched, or torn earlobes
  • Earlobes with large creases and wrinkles

Drs. Knott and Seth also perform reconstructive procedures on ears that have had trauma or skin cancer removal.


Candidates for otoplasty may be anyone who feels self-conscious about their ears and wants to improve their appearance. Although the operation is most often performed on children aged four to fourteen, this procedure can be very beneficial to people of all ages. At UCSF Facial Plastic Surgery we specialize in adult otoplasty primarily.


Drs. Knott and Park perform evaluations in clinic and thoroughly discuss with you what your desires are for improving your ears. They assess the aspects of your ear anatomy that will require re-shaping and the different treatment options to perform these desired changes.

Procedure - Otoplasty

Otoplasty, also known as ear pinning, generally lasts two to three hours and is performed on an outpatient basis. The type of anesthesia used depends on patient preferences and the degree of surgery required, and includes general anesthesia, local anesthesia, or IV sedation. The otoplasty procedure begins with a small incision made behind the ear, in the natural crease where the ear meets the head. The cartilage is then sculpted and bent into its new position to achieve the desired appearance.

After sculpting the cartilage to the preferred shape, sutures are used to hold the ear in the new position until healing is complete. A bandage is then wrapped around the head to ensure the new positioning. To achieve better balance, both ears may be operated on even if only one has a problem.

Procedure - Reconstruction

Ear reconstruction surgery can be performed to correct a number of different medical and cosmetic ear issues. When the outer ear is misshapen or a part is missing due to a birth defect, trauma or disease, a reconstruction can provide significant improvement in appearance. Reconstruction typically takes place in several steps. Initially, a pocket is made in the skin near the ear. A portion of the patient's own rib cartilage is removed and sculpted into the shape of an ear. This structure is then inserted into the pocket that had been created. Several stages of reconstruction are required to achieve the final complex form of the ear.

Drs. Knott and Seth also perform reconstruction of the ear that is misshapen due to trauma or skin cancer removal. These procedures vary depending on the size and extent of the misshapen area. A combination of skin and cartilage grafting and rotations are usually required.


Patients usually feel normal after a few hours, but the ears may ache or throb for five to seven days. Prescription medication will be made available to help alleviate discomfort. A few days after the otoplasty procedure, the bandages around your head will be replaced with a surgical dressing that should be worn for approximately one week. The stitches will be removed within one week. Otoplasty patients should avoid sleeping on their side for the first two weeks after surgery.

After about one week following otoplasty, patients are often able to return to work and resume normal daily activities. After the ears have healed completely, there will usually be a faint scar on the back of the ears. However, because of the strategic placement of the incisions in ear surgery, the scars should be virtually unnoticeable and will typically fade with time.

To learn more about adult ear reshaping and whether or not this procedure is right for you, please call us today to schedule a consultation.

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