Ear pinning, also known as otoplasty, is a surgical technique used to permanently bring the ears closer to the sides of the head. This is achieved by making a small incision behind the ear and reshaping the cartilage there. The ear is then sutured to be permanently closer to the side of the head. A small amount of cartilage may be removed during the procedure if the ear has excess amounts.
The incision used in an ear pinning is usually made in a natural fold of skin, so that, upon healing, it will not be obvious. An ear pinning procedure typically takes two to three hours, and can be done under local or general anesthetic. Patients can experience mild bruising and tenderness of the ears after the procedure, and are commonly prescribed pain medication for the first few weeks. A head dressing or bandage is usually worn for one week to protect the surgical site. This dressing will apply pressure to the ears to ensure the effectiveness of the procedure, and must not removed or allowed to become wet.
Removing excess cartilage or shaping the ear to a different contour can also be performed in conjunction with an ear pinning. A patient with tightly curled ears can have them smoothed out, and a patient with very hard ears can have them softened. Ear pinning procedures can also be incision-less, requiring only the use of a needle which is inserted into the ear, to model the cartilage and deposit structural sutures.
Patients as young as four years old can undergo this procedure, as the ears are fully formed by that age. This surgery is most common among school-aged children to prevent peer ridicule. It is also growing in popularity among adults, however, due to its simplicity and quick recovery time. For these same reasons, this operation is among one of the least expensive cosmetic surgeries.
While simple and quick, there are several risks associated with this procedure. The first is hearing loss, which can occur if the auditory canal is distorted, usually as a result of an under-skilled surgeon. There is also the possibility of over-correction, in which the ears are pinned too close to the head, resulting in an unnatural look. The similar problem of asymmetrical correction is also possible, which occurs when the ears are not evenly and properly aligned in height. A patient may also experience blood clots, which will typically dissolve on their own.