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Otoplasty

Your complete guide and quick links to everything you want to know!

What Is An Otoplasty?

Otoplasty is a surgical procedure to change the shape, size or position of the ears. Although most often used for ears that stick out too far from the head, an otoplasty can also be used if one or both ears have been deformed through injury.  

Protruding ears in both adults and children are not uncommon and can develop on one or both sides due to abnormalities in the anatomy of the ear cartilage. Otoplasty can correct these abnormalities and bring about immediate and permanent changes of facial appearance. 

Examples of Protruding Ears in Adults

Otoplasty is a very rewarding form of ear surgery for both surgeon and patient alike because with ears pinned back, the patient’s appearance can dramatically improve. Men can wear their hair as short as they wish and women can wear eye-catching earrings with their hair pulled back without attracting ‘stares’ from others!

With children, it’s important that the Otoplasty is done at around 6-7 years of age in order to avoid the teasing and bullying that this condition can attract from their peers around this age. Continual teasing by other children can be devastating to a child and can lead to self-consciousness, body image problems and more serious psychological disorders. So, early treatment is recommended.

Examples of Protruding Ears in Children

Although Otoplasty is more often requested by teenagers and adults, doing it in childhood has the following technical advantages:

  • The cartilage in children is softer and more easily moulded.
  • It avoids the risk of teasing from other children at school – a not-uncommon problem in children around this age.

Otoplasty Techniques

Very important, please read thoroughly

Currently, there are two techniques available for performing Otoplasty that deserve your very careful attention and consideration:

1. Incisional Otoplasty

This is the time-proven and more effective technique to permanently correct protruding ears. An incision is made on the back of the ear and the ear cartilage is exposed.  The cartilage is then modified to allow the ear to sit closer to the side of the head. The skin incision is closed with sutures that either dissolve or are removed 7-10 days later.

The resulting scar is located on the back of the ear becomes very inconspicuous over time.

2. Non-Incisional Otoplasty

In recent years, a less invasive method of pinning back protruding ears using only sutures has been widely promoted, often by doctors without the training in the Incisional Otoplasty technique.

While you may find this non-surgical technique very tempting, bear in mind that:

  • Not all ear deformities can be corrected using sutures alone and your final result may be poorer than you had expected; and.
  • There is the risk that the sutures holding the ears back under tension can fail and allow the original deformity to spring back into place.

For the foregoing reasons, the Sydney Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Clinic does not recommend or perform the Non-Incisional Technique.

A Comparison Table Summary of the Two Techniques is shown below:

Non-Incisional OtoplastyIncisional Otoplasty
IncisionNo incision is involved. Instead, a series of sutures are inserted to pin the ears back closer to the head.Incision is made along the back of the ear to gain access to the underlying cartilage and correct whichever deformities are causing the protrusion.
Effectiveness & Duration of CorrectionA less reliable technique. Owing to the tension involved, the suture may fail to hold and allow the original deformity to spring back out of place. If the sutures fail, the procedure needs to be repeated or preferably, replaced with the Incisional Technique.Better able to address all the finer causes of each individual’s ear protrusion. A more effective & permanent result.
AnaesthesiaCan be performed under Local Anaesthesia +/- SedationGeneral Anaesthesia
Operating Time1½ hours2 hours
ScarNoneUsually fine and very inconspicuous on the back of the ear.

How Is Incisional Otoplasty Performed?

An Incisional Otoplasty is performed in a Licensed Hospital under General Anaesthesia administered by our Specialist Anaesthetist. However, an overnight stay is not required.  You can go home shortly after the procedure and recuperate there but you cannot go home alone, you must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Post-operative pain is usually mild only and can be relieved with the analgesics that your doctor will have prescribed for you.

Recovery After Incisional Otoplasty

Initially, your ear(s) need to be covered with a bulky compression bandage for around 7 days.

Sutures are usually removed when the bandage is taken off.

When your doctor removes the bandage, the ear(s) may look bruised, swollen and uneven. Don’t be alarmed as these appearances are normal and will settle over the ensuing 2-3 weeks.

After your compression bandage is removed, your doctor may recommend that you wear a tennis-type headband, at nights only, for a further 2-3 weeks to support the re-shaped ear cartilage during its healing phases.

Adult patients usually prefer to wait for the bandages to be removed before returning to work. You should refrain from strenuous exercise for 2-3 weeks.

Children can return to school when the bandages are removed but need to take extra care during playground time.

Females should avoid wearing their earrings until all swelling has subsided as inserting them can be difficult as well as pose a risk of introducing an infection.

Final Scars After Incisional Otoplasty

  • Usually fine and very inconspicuous on the back of the ear.
  • Most otoplasty scars eventually fade to white and very inconspicuous. However, if you have brown or Asian skin you may be at risk of developing pigmented scars.

‘Before & After’ Otoplasty

Before Bilateral Otoplasty
Before Bilateral Otoplasty
1 Week After Bilateral Otoplasty
1 Week After Bilateral Otoplasty

Potential Risks & Complications of Otoplasty

Surgery and anaesthesia nowadays are considered generally safe but both have potential risks and complications which include:

Specific to Otoplasty:

  • Pain, bruising and swelling of the ears. These are normal, expected and temporary only.
  • Areas of numbness which are usually temporary, rarely permanent.
  • Asymmetry of the two ears or cartilage irregularities requiring adjustment surgery.
  • Wound infection requiring topical wound care and antibiotics.
  • Hematoma (a collection of blood under the skin) which may require drainage.
  • Slow or poor healing – more likely in smokers and diabetics.
  • Wide or thickened scars (hypertrophic or keloid) could occur if you are prone to them and pigmented scars are more likely in those with brown or Asian skin.
  • Small areas of skin breakdown which could take several weeks to heal.

General Risks:

  • Allergic reaction to medications, sutures, dressings, or antiseptic solutions.
  • Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) and its potential sequel of life-threatening Pulmonary Embolism: To reduce the risk of DVT, Calf Massagers can be applied for the entire duration of your surgery to prevent the blood in your leg veins from pooling and clotting.
  • Adverse Reactions to Anaesthesia or Medication: The safety of anaesthesia nowadays in Australia is well established. Nevertheless, potential risks exist with all anaesthesia and unexpected reactions can occur. These may include nausea, vomiting, and allergic reactions ranging from minor to severe. Respiratory failure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke are very rare but documented risks of any anaesthesia.

‘Pros & Cons’ of Otoplasty Surgery

The Pros:

  • It is a short-duration procedure.
  • No hospital stay is required. You can return home 1-2 hours after your surgery.
  • The results with the Incisional Technique are permanent.
  • Complication rates are low. 
  • Post-operative pain is usually mild only and controlled with pain-relievers. 
  • You may qualify for a Medicare Rebate if you are under 18 years of age.

The Cons:

  • You will need around one week off work while wearing the compression bandage.
  • Severely deformed ‘cauliflower ears’ may not be amenable to correction.
  • If you have brown or Asian skin, the final scar on the back of the ear could end up pigmented.

The Cost of Otoplasty

  • Otoplasty

The total cost of Otoplasty Surgery is made up of the following individual costs:

  • Surgical Fee: 
  • One Ear From $6,000*
  • Both Ears From $12,000*

    * depending on the complexity of the Otoplasty.

  • Hospital Fee: Hospitals differ in their hourly rates for Operating Theatres. Our Surgeon will advise you of the expected Theatre Fees once it has been determined which hospital you will be attending and how long your procedure will take.
  • Anaesthetist Fee: This will basically depend on the duration of the surgery. Anaesthetic Fees are generally around $880/hour.

Can I Claim a Medicare or Private Health Insurance Rebate?

Incisional Otoplasty may be eligible for a Medicare Rebate if you are under 18 years of age.

If you are eligible, and you also have Private Hospital Insurance, a variable portion of your Hospital Fees can also be claimed depending on your Fund and Level of Cover.

Our Specialist Surgeons

Terms & Conditions


  • Consultations must be pre-paid at time of booking.
  • Once pre-paid, all consultations are non-refundable and non-transferable but can be moved to another date with at least 3 working days’ notice.
  • Cancellations with less than 3 working days’ notice and ‘no shows’ are not refundable or transferable and will incur a new consultation fee to re-book.
  • All payments by Credit Card & Debit Card attract a 0.3% surcharge and Amex a 1.5% surcharge.
  • The Medical Board of Australia’s new Regulations which came into effect on 1 July 2023 require that:
    • All patients seeking a consultation regarding cosmetic surgery must provide a referral and the referral must be from a GP or other specialist who does not perform cosmetic surgery or non-surgical cosmetic services themselves.
    • If a patient arrives without a referral, the Regulations recommend that the doctor should refrain from seeing the patient – in which event, any pre-paid consultation fee would be lost.

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Dr Pouria Moradi, Plastic Surgeon

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