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Ear Surgery

Some men, women and children feel that their ears are large in proportion to other facial features or protrude more than normal. Most typically, children between the ages of 4 – 14 are self-conscious about their appearance and their parents bring them to Orange County plastic surgeon Daniel C. Mills, MD to bring their ears more in proportion to the rest of facial features. Additionally, some adults wish to have a simple earlobe reduction and/or repair earlobes that have been elongated or stretched over time. No matter the age, Dr. Mills can typically perform otoplasty or ear surgery to make an individual feel better about themselves.

What to Expect

face2With children, Dr. Mills recommends that parents are alert to their child’s feelings about their ears. He does not recommend a parent insisting on the surgery, unless the child wants the change. From our experience, children feel self-conscious about their ears and want ear surgery are generally more cooperative during the procedure, take better care of the surgical area and are happier with the outcome.

During your consultation, Dr. Mills will want to hear your (and your child’s, if applicable) goals and expectations. Dr. Mills will review all possible options and develop a surgical game plan. With otoplasty, Dr. Mills makes an incision behind the ear and sculpts the cartilage, bending and shaping it back toward the head. He uses non-removable sutures to maintain the new shape. Occasionally, a piece of cartilage will be removed if the concheal bowl is too big or deep. Even when only one ear appears to protrude, Dr. Mills will likely perform surgery on both to achieve the best symmetry possible. In most cases, ear surgery will leave a faint scar in the back of the ear that will fade with time.

Several weeks prior to surgery, you (and your child, if applicable) will meet with our pre-operative patient coordinator. She will review all of the pre-operative instructions and make sure that you complete all the necessary lab tests and health screenings based on your personal medical history and surgical plan. Additionally, there are certain medications, herbs and potions that we will ask you to cease taking for two weeks prior to surgery and two weeks post-surgery. This appointment will also be a time for you to ask any final questions, so that you ready for surgery and have an optimal recovery time.


On the day of surgery, you (or your child) will need a responsible adult to accompany you to and from our surgery center. This individual will need to be available by phone, so that they are ready upon your discharge. Additionally, someone will need to stay with you for your first 24 hours following surgery.

Upon admission to our facility, a registered nurse will spend about an hour preparing you for surgery. You should expect to spend about 2 ½ – 4 hours for pre-operative admission, surgical time and post-surgical recovery. (Complicated cases may require additional time.) Your surgery will likely be performed under local anesthesia with sedation or a light general anesthesia. During your stay, our surgical team will care for you. Dr. Mills’ team includes a nurse anesthetist, registered nurse and surgical technician. He has been working with most of these staff members for many years and some almost since the time he started his practice. The entire team is committed to providing you with superior care and ensuring that your surgery is a success.

Post-Operative Information

Patients undergoing otoplasty leave with a bulky bandage wrapping over their ears and head. This dressing promotes optimal molding and healing. The ears may ache or throb for a few days, but this can be treated with medication. Typically, patients are up and about within a few hours following their discharge.

The heavy bandage is typically removed after a day or two and replaced with a lighter head dressing, similar to a headband or tennis ‘sweatband’. This sweatband will help to support the cartilage and help form the cartilage during the healing process. Dr. Mills will give instructions on when to wear the headband. Also, any non-dissolvable stitches will be removed at about 2 weeks. It is especially important that all post-operative instructions are followed to achieve the best result possible.

Dr. Mills will give instructions about resuming activities, but typically the patient should avoid any activity that might bend the ear for the first month after surgery. Most adults can return to work after about 5 days. Children can return to school after about 7 days. However, they will need to be careful on the playground and/or sports activities. We would advise you to talk to your child’s teachers, so that they can be aware to keep their eye on the child’s activity level for the first few weeks post-operatively. We would be happy to provide a written medical excuse, if needed.

With ear surgery, complications are typically infrequent and minor. Potential complications include blood clots and infection. While a blood clot is generally a rare occurrence, it may naturally dissolve or can be drawn out with a needle. Infections are usually treated with antibiotics. As with any surgery under a general anesthesia, there is always the risk of a reaction to the anesthesia.

We look forward to meeting you and/or your child in consultation to discuss you needs and develop a tailored surgical plan. In the meantime, we welcome any questions that you might have via email. You can contact our patient coordinator through our contact us page. It is our philosophy to provide the best service possible, so please let us know how we can best serve you.

You can expect:

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time will it take to heal?
Your ears will take about 2 months to heal. During this time, you will need to wear a headband over your ears at nighttime.

Will I be in a lot of pain after surgery?
Otoplasty is typically not a painful surgery. Most people find that their ears are numb after surgery and any pain is reduced with icing the area and taking Tylenol. Additionally, Dr. Mills will prescribe pain medication, if needed.

How old must my child be to have this surgery?
Dr. Mills recommends that a patient be at least 4 years old.

Is this surgery more suitable for children?
While most of our patients tend to be children for this surgery, many adults opt to have it done as well.

How long until I can work out or play sports after surgery?
You will need to wait about 2 weeks until you can do light workouts and a month until you can do aerobics. You should avoid any contact sports for about 3 months.

Will my ears return to their original position?
The reason that Dr. Mills has you wear a headband is because cartilage does tend to have a memory. The headband functions to hold the ears in place as they are healing, so that they do not protrude again.