Otoplasty (Ear Tuck) – Cost, Risks, Before and After Photos

This article has been reviewed by
Dr. Kristin Eagan, M.D.


Otoplasty or ear pinning surgery is one of the most common cosmetic surgery procedures. It is primarily performed in children with different ear malformations and aesthetic problems of the ears.  It is also performed in adults. Undergoing Otoplasty, sometimes also called an ear tuck, can have an enormous effect on a child’s self-esteem, relieving them of self-conscious feelings.

One Patient’s Journey with Otoplasty

What is involved in Otoplasty?

Otoplasty is a surgery of the external part of the ears. Its main aim is to change and improve the way the ears look. Depending on the specific case otoplasty surgery may be required to reduce the size of the ears, to bring them closer to the head, and/or to change the shape of the ears.

The surgery is performed in an outbound surgery center or in a hospital setting. It can be done under local anesthesia, sedation or under general anesthesia. Depending on the case, otoplasty surgery can take from one to five hours and the patient may be discharged the same day or may need to stay several days at the hospital, but in the vast majority of cases, the patient goes home the same day.

The way each ear surgery is performed largely depends on the problem that will be treated and the type of the procedure. Most otoplasty surgeries involve incisions on the back side of the ear hiding the incision in the crease behind the ear.

Otoplasty before and after in child

Otoplasty before and after in child

Otoplasty before and after in adult

Otoplasty before and after in adult


When is otoplasty is required?

An otoplasty surgery may be needed in a large variety of cases. Many adults require this cosmetic procedure simply because they are unhappy with the shape or the size of their ears. The most common concern of people opting for this ear surgery is the so called protruding ears. In this case, the ears are larger in size than normal and lack the natural folds and contours. If one of the ears significantly differs in size and shape from the other, this ear surgery may fix this problem as well.

Although not technically not otoplasty, a procedure called an auricular reconstruction may be needed due to congenital ear malformations or deformations caused by trauma or an injury. Common diagnosis that require ear surgeries are microtia and anotia. In both cases the surgeon may need to reconstruct different elements of the ears and enhance their appearance.

When is the best time for an otoplasty cosmetic surgery?

It is hard to make a generalization when the best time for an otoplasty is as this very much depends on the specific diagnosis and case. In general, the earlier an otoplasty is performed, the easier for the surgeon is to reshape the ears easily. For that reason many ear defects and malformations are better to be addressed in early childhood. Other ear defects can be successfully treated at any age. The best way to determine when an ear defect is best to be fixed is to consult with an experienced plastic surgeon.

Most surgeons recommend performing otoplasty before the child will enter kindergarten so as to avoid the childhood teasing that can commence at this point.

Otoplasty Recovery

The average otoplasty recovery time is about a month and a half. Most patients, including children, are able to resume their normal daily activities about a week after the surgery.

In all ear surgery cases, the patients’ ears are bandaged with special heavy bandages immediately after the procedure. The bandages must stay on for several days to ensure the ears structures are healing the correct position. The first bandages are typically removed a couple of days post-op and replaced with lighter ones.  Commonly a light headband or sweatband is worn around the head encompassing the ears for one week 24 hours per day and then at night for one month.

Most patients find the recovery painless and trouble-free. The most common side effects are swelling of the operated area as well as light headaches. Both can be managed with proper medications and subside about 7 days after the surgery.

Otoplasty risks and complications

Otoplasty surgery is typically considered a low risk surgical procedure. Nevertheless, similar to any other surgery, there are various complications that may arise as well as some risks involved.

The most common complication from an otoplasty is infection of the reshaped skin and cartilage. Infections are also the most common reason for dissatisfaction of the surgery outcome due to formation of scar tissue. Blood clot formation is another possible risk associated with otoplasty. Usually they resolve without any interference or are removed with a special needle.

There is a risk of loosened sutures, especially in children undergoing the procedure. Loosened sutures may let the ear to return to its position before the surgery and thus be a reason for unsatisfactory results.

How much does otoplasty cost?

In general, an otoplasty costs between $2000 and $7000, with an average price of $3,500. The price of otoplasty may vary greatly among different plastic surgeons and geographic location. Typically the price is formed after taking into consideration the price of the anesthesia, the cost of the surgical setting and the cost of the surgeon. Of course, the type and difficulty of the procedure also influences the cost of the surgery.

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