Ear Tuck

An ear tuck, or otoplasty, is a surgical procedure to improve the position, shape or size of the ears. Otoplasty can correct ears that “stick out” or protrude on one or both sides. It can also correct a defect in the ear structure that is present at birth and becomes more visible as you age.

The Procedure

An ear tuck, or otoplasty, is a surgical procedure to improve the position, shape or size of the ears. Otoplasty can correct ears that “stick out” or protrude on one or both sides. It can also correct a defect in the ear structure that is often present at birth and becomes more visible as you age.

This procedure is performed in Kaiser Permanente’s operating suite with either local, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. There are different ways to do ear tucks and your surgeon will decide what is the best approach for you.

For an ear tuck to correct protruding ears, incisions are usually made on the back of the ear. The skin is then tightened and the ear is positioned closer to the head. Your surgeon will take care to better align your ears to look natural – while avoiding a “pinned” look. Scars are well hidden behind the ear.

Depending on your otoplasty, a surgical technique may be used to create or enlarge the antihelical fold (inside the rim of the ear) and reduce enlarged conchal cartilage. When incisions are needed on the front of the ear, the folds of the ear usually hide them. Internal, non-removeable sutures are used to create and secure the newly shaped cartilage in place.


Your Kaiser Permanente plastic surgeon will work closely with you. Be prepared to discuss your expectations and desired outcome. Make sure to address all of your questions and concerns.

Aspirin, Motrin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and some over-the-counter herbal medications must be discontinued at least two weeks prior to surgery. These and other drugs and substances may cause excess bleeding and bruising. You can usually begin taking them again after a week or so.

If you are a smoker, it is important to quit at least four weeks prior to surgery and keep from smoking until four weeks after surgery to ensure your wounds heal properly. Your plastic surgeon will discuss this in detail with you and you will also be given a sheet with a list of common medicines to avoid for a short period. Your plastic surgeon will detail the risks associated with surgery. Plan to have a family member or friend drive you to and from your surgery appointment and stay with you for at least one night following surgery.


Following your surgery, your ears will be bandaged. It is important to leave the bandages on for as long as your surgeon recommends. Any tampering with bandages or taking them off early could result in a loss of the correction and you may need a follow-up ear surgery. You will be given specific instructions on how to care for your incisions.

The immediate recovery will depend upon what type of anesthesia that your Kaiser Permanente plastic surgeon will employ for the surgery. Various anesthetic agents affect patients differently and will dictate the patient’s recovery. Most surgeons will incorporate extensive local anesthesia into the tissues which can allow patients to wake up pain free. The local anesthesia will begin to wear off in three to four hours and most patients will experience mild to moderate discomfort at this stage. Discomfort and pain is normal and is usually well controlled with pain medication prescribed by your doctor.

In general, you should avoid strenuous exercise for three weeks following surgery. Patients may shower the following day; but no Jacuzzi, swimming or soaking in the tub for a week. Most plastic surgeons want to see their patients back in the office five to seven days after their surgery to remove the drains which may have been placed at the time of surgery as well as to remove any sutures that do not dissolve on their own. Healing time is highly variable, but most patients’ experience moderate swelling and some bruising that can persist up to two weeks.

One of the potential risks of surgery is infection and this typically manifests itself around five to seven days after surgery and is effectively treated with oral antibiotics. Numbness around the incisions is normal after surgery and can persist up to several months. The actual “full” recovery period from surgery is up to a year and this involves a gradual softening and settling of the scars and tissues. A significant amount of the recovery occurs within two to three months, but it will take the external scars up to a year to fully mature.


Specific Risks

Every surgical procedure involves a certain amount of risk and it is important that you understand these risks and the possible complications associated with them. In addition, every procedure has limitations. An individual’s choice to undergo a surgical procedure is based on the comparison of the risk to potential benefit. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, you should discuss them with your plastic surgeon at The Aesthetic Center by Kaiser Permanente to make sure you understand all possible consequences of ear tuck surgery or otoplasty.

Ear Trauma:

Physical injury after the otoplasty procedure could disrupt the results of surgery. Care must be given to protect the ear(s) from injury during the healing process. Additional surgery may be necessary to correct damage.


The human face is normally asymmetric. There can be normal differences between ears in terms of shape and size. There can be a variation from one side to the other in the results obtained from an otoplasty procedure. Additional surgery may be necessary to correct postoperative asymmetry.