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Pinnaplasty is the medical term for a particular cosmetic ear operation. Also known as an otoplasty, the surgery involves reshaping cartilage or removing skin to pull prominent ears closer to the head or alter the shape or size of the ears. Pinnaplasty is a common procedure and is suitable for adults and children over the age of five.
A person with prominent or large ears can feel self-conscious about his or her appearance. During a pinnaplasty, the surgeon makes a small incision behind the ear close to the head. This is to expose the cartilage that holds the ear to the head in a particular position. The surgeon then either reshapes the cartilage or removes some cartilage to allow the ear to be repositioned closer to the head, making the ear stick out less.
Skin can also be removed to make the ear smaller. Sometimes, the patient's ears are asymmetrical, and the doctor will make more changes to one ear than the other in an attempt to make them even. After the surgeon finishes tweaking the cartilage, he or she puts some stitches in the incision to hold the ear in place while it heals.
The pinnaplasty procedure is performed under general anesthetic or local anesthetic. It takes about an hour, and a patient can usually go home the same day. Usually, a patient has to wear a bandage or a headband for a week or more to keep the ears in place.
This type of cosmetic ear procedure is only suitable for people over the age of five. Younger children's ears usually appear more prominent as they are still growing. Kids under the age of five also have immature cartilage, which doesn't hold the new shape well.
After the surgery, a patient may feel swollen and bruised at the operation site. The patch of skin behind the ear may also feel numb, but this effect is normally temporary. The incision site will also result in a small scar, which becomes less noticeable over time.
Complications of pinnaplasty include infection at the incision site and bleeding inside the scar. These conditions may require further surgery, although an infection can also be treated with antibiotics. Some patients' scars can be raised and red. Another undesirable effect of the procedure may be asymmetrical ears, or the ear adjustment may not hold in place, requiring another procedure. It is normal for a patient's ears to move slightly forward during the healing process.