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A patient's guide to cosmetic surgery sponsored by Nuffield Health

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Nuffield Health, a leading provider of cosmetic surgery in the UK, with a network of 30 private hospitals across the country.

Cosmetic surgery

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Ear pinning cosmetic surgery - pinnaplasty guide

Ear pinning

Ear pinning is a type of cosmetic surgery performed to adjust the angle at which the ears stick out. The term ear pinning something of a misnomer, as the ears are not actually pinned back at all. Instead, the outer cartilage of the ear, or pinna, is reshaped to allow the ears to sit closer to the head, giving them the appearance of having been ‘pinned’ back.


Why consider pinnaplasty?

Many people are self-conscious about the size and shape of their ears, and if your ears stick out from the side of your head, this can make matters worse. Pinnaplasty, also known as otoplasty, is the only ear surgery available to permanently change the shape and protrusion of the ears.


Ear reshaping through pinnaplasty is a simple, low cost cosmetic surgery procedure that can be done under local anaesthetic. You will fully recover in just six weeks and your appearance will be significantly changed for the better. However, as with all cosmetic surgery, it is important to discuss the possible results with your ear surgeon before you decide, so that you know what can be achieved and are not disappointed with the results.


What does ear pinning surgery involve?

Pinnaplasty is not a major operation, and it can usually be done under local anaesthetic as a day case, so you will not need to stay in hospital. If the procedure is more complicated, your ear surgeon may recommend a general anaesthetic and you may need to stay overnight.


There are a variety of techniques used in ear reshaping, but all achieve essentially the same thing, which is to alter the shape of the ear cartilage, or pinna, so that the ear sits flush with the head. This can be achieved by removal of a section of cartilage, stitching of the cartilage or subtle reshaping by trimming or shaving of the cartilage.


The cartilage is accessed via an incision at the back of the ear, close to the fold between the ear and the head. You will need stitches to close the incision site, and these may or may not be dissolvable.


If you also have problems with asymmetric ears, your ear surgeon may address this at the same time by reshaping the cartilage.


After your ear pinning surgery

After your ear reduction surgery you will need to wear a bandage around your head to protect your ears and hold the new shape in place while you heal. You will need to wear this for the first seven days, and you may need a smaller headband after that, though you may only need to wear this at night to prevent folding your ears as you sleep.


There will naturally be some swelling and redness around the ears, but the incision site, and any associated scarring, will be hidden from view behind the ear. You will normally fully recover in around six weeks.


Since it is only the back of the outer ear which is affected by ear pinning surgery, your hearing should not alter either immediately after the surgery or in the longer term.


What risks are involved in a pinnaplasty?

As with any cosmetic surgery operation, there are risks associated with bleeding and infection at the wound site. However, since ear pinning is such a minor operation, these risks are minimal. A local anaesthetic is usually used and this carries much fewer risks than a general.


Risks specific to pinnaplasty are not common; you may suffer from lumpy scars at the incision site or extended numbness around the ear due to nerve damage. In very rare cases, the alterations do not hold and further surgery is required.


Perhaps the biggest risk with pinnaplasty is disappointment that your ears may appear uneven following the procedure. Your surgeon will do all they can to avoid this, but once you have healed, and any swelling has gone down, you may find some degree of ear asymmetry. This can be corrected with further surgery.


What does ear pinning cost?

The average cost of ear pinning or pinnaplasty is between £1,500 and £3,000 – although you can sometimes get this treatment on the NHS if your appearance is causing you serious psychological distress.



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