Otoplasty (Ear Pinning or Reshaping) Procedure

Otoplasty (oh-tow-plas-tee) — often called ear pinning — is a specialized plastic surgery procedure. It is done to improve the appearance and position of large or protruding ears (prominauris). While prominent ears do not affect hearing, they often make a child the target of teasing by others. Correcting the shape when a child is young can have a positive impact on their confidence and self-esteem.

Our plastic surgery team at UPMC Children’s includes highly skilled surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses who are specially trained in caring for children and are dedicated to helping children function at the highest level by treating both common and complex surgical issues.

At UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this surgery and invite you to participate. The following information can help you learn about the surgery and how you can help.

Why Choose UPMC Children’s for Your Child’s Otoplasty?

UPMC Children’s is the region’s pediatric referral facility and western Pennsylvania's only Level-1 Pediatric Trauma Center. Whether your child’s situation is severe or straightforward, a congenital impairment, or the result of an injury or trauma, you can be confident that we’ll apply our years of expertise, knowledge, and experience to help your child — and every patient we treat.

Fast Facts About Otoplasty

  • Otoplasty is surgery to improve the shape, position, or proportion of the ear.
    • It is sometimes referred to as “ear pinning” — a procedure used to reset, or pin back, protruding ears closer to the head.
    • It may involve removal of cartilage and skin to conform to a normal shape.
  • This surgery is usually done on children between at least 5 years of age once the ears have reached close to adult size. It also can be done on older children and adults.
  • Prior to surgery, your child will undergo an evaluation process with photos (2D and 3D) and measurements taken of the ears.
  • Your child will be given medicines to prevent pain during their surgery. The medicine your child is given will be based on what the anesthesiologist (AN-es-theez-e-ol-o-gist) decides is best for your child.
  • This surgery can take as little as 1 to 2 hours, or up to 5 hours for more complicated procedures.
  • Otoplasty is typically a same day procedure. This means your child will likely go home the same day following surgery.

What Is Otoplasty?

Otoplasty is a type of cosmetic procedure to set prominent ears closer to the head or reduce the size of large ears.

Although each procedure varies, it generally involves altering the cartilage behind the ear. In some cases, extra cartilage or skin might be removed. Stitches may be used to hold the cartilage permanently in place. It is most often performed as a bilateral otoplasty, which means the procedure is done on both ears at the same time.

Surgery typically involves an incision behind the ear where it is not easily visible. The incision is closed with dissolvable sutures, which do not need to be removed.

Your child will have to wear a bandage for 5 to 10 days following surgery. Afterward, your surgeon will likely recommend wearing a special headband to ensure the ears stay in the right position and are not traumatized as they continue to heal. Sports activities will be limited for 6 weeks until the ears have fully healed.

Home Preparation

One business day before your child’s surgery, you’ll receive a phone call from a nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m. (Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.) The nurse will give you specific eating and drinking instructions for your child based on their age.

The Surgery

Your child’s otoplasty will be done at the Same Day Surgery Center at Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville.

When you have checked in, you and your child will be called to an examination room where your child’s health history will be taken and vital signs will be checked. You’ll meet with one of the doctors, including a doctor from anesthesia, on your child’s surgical team to go over the surgery. They will answer any last-minute questions you might have.

When it is time for your child to go the operating room, you’ll be asked to wait in the surgical family waiting area.

A Parent’s/Guardian’s Role

The most important thing you can do as the parent or guardian is to help your child stay calm and relaxed before the surgery. The best way to help your child stay calm is for you to stay calm.

During the surgery, at least one parent or guardian should remain in the surgical family waiting area at all times in case the family needs to be reached.

While Asleep

While your child is asleep, their heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen level will be checked continuously. When the surgery is over, the medicines will be stopped and your child will begin to wake up.

Waking Up

When your child is moved to the recovery room, you’ll be called so that you can be there as they wake up. You and your child will stay in the recovery room to be watched over until they are alert and drinking well.

Going Home

Your child will stay in the hospital until they are drinking well and urinating normally. Your child will likely go home with an antibiotic and oral pain medicine to help them heal and be more comfortable.

Follow Up

You’ll be given your child’s follow-up plan before you leave the hospital. This will tell you when to schedule your child’s follow-up appointment.

Helpful Tips

  • Swelling is normal after this surgery.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing the ears.
  • Keep your child’s head elevated.
  • Keep the dressing clean and dry.
  • Avoid pulling shirts over the dressings. Wear button down shirts or very loose-fitting shirts

At-Home Care

You’ll be given information about how to help your child when you get home. This will include any medicines to give your child and how to care for the ears as they heal.

You can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain or discomfort. The surgeon may also prescribe a stronger pain medicine for moderate pain. Give all medicines exactly as directed.

It’s important that your child doesn’t do anything that could potentially injure the ears. A sponge bath or careful bathing in a tub is allowed. But use caution to keep the head dressing clean and dry. Do not shower until it is okayed by your surgeon. No gym, contact sports, or activities for at least 6 weeks.

If you have ANY concerns, we are always happy to talk with you.

Special Needs

If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, or if you have any questions, please call 412-692-6845 before the surgery and ask to speak with the nurse practitioner. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.

If it is after hours, call the UPMC Children’s operator at 412-692-5325 and ask them to page the doctor who is on-call for procedure.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with the Division of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, call 412-692-8650Online scheduling is also available for both in-person and video visits.