What are the risks and potential complications of ear reshaping (otoplasty)?  

As with all surgeries, ear reshaping involves risks and possible complications. Most ear reshaping surgeries are successful, but complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgery include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing 
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, which can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood

Potential complications of ear reshaping

Complications of ear shaping include:

  • Asymmetry or overcorrection of the ears
  • Changes in skin sensation near the ears
  • Hematoma, an accumulation of blood under the skin 
  • Poor wound healing 
  • Scarring
  • Stitches that fall out prematurely

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan and: 

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your procedure and during recovery. After surgery, avoid sleeping on your side and try not to scratch or rub your incisions.
  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy
  • Not smoking. Smoking increases your risk of poor wound healing and may compromise the outcome of your procedure.
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies 

How do I prepare for my ear reshaping (otoplasty)?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your comfort and outcome. 

You can prepare for ear reshaping by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history, allergies, and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include blood tests and other tests as needed.
  • Not eating or drinking before surgery as directed. Your surgery may be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of surgery because you can choke on stomach contents during anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), blood thinners, and vitamin and herbal treatments. Your doctor will give you instructions for taking your specific medications and supplements.
  • Wearing a button down shirt the day of surgery so that you don't have to pull anything over your head following the procedure.

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before ear reshaping and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Am I a good candidate for ear reshaping? Are there any other treatment options for my condition?
  • What type of ear reshaping procedure will I need? If I need a series of surgeries, how far apart will you space them?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • When can I shower after surgery? How should I care for my incisions?
  • How will I look after the surgery? 
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • How do I take my medications?
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.