Ear Surgery Recovery

Reviewed by Darrick E. Antell, MD

The speed and ease of ear surgery recovery often depends on the age of the person undergoing the procedure. Ear surgery (otoplasty), unlike most other plastic surgery procedures, is often performed on younger children who may have difficulty fully complying with some of the more stringent postoperative instructions. Reconstructive ear surgeries may involve longer recovery times than cosmetic otoplasty procedures.

Ear Surgery Recovery: Children and Adults

Adults who undergo ear surgery are typically able to return to their normal actives within three days of their procedure. By contrast, young children are often placed on restricted activity for at least a week. This includes avoiding any contact sports or rough play that can impede healing.

Otoplasty or ear surgery is one of the most common procedures for children.

A golden rule of otoplasty recovery is that your ears should not be bent for at least one month.

Regardless of your age, your head is usually wrapped in a thick turban-like bandage immediately following your ear pinning surgery. This will protect your ears and foster the healing process.

Managing Pain and Swelling After Otoplasty

Some discomfort is to be expected after ear surgery and is usually managed with prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. Your surgeon will provide clear instruction on what you — or your child — can safely take to relieve any discomfort after otoplasty. Certain medications may increase your risk of bleeding and should be avoided during your ear surgery recovery. Headaches are also possible after ear surgery.

You may experience some swelling, which can be managed by keeping your head elevated. In most cases, this swelling abates within one week. Some people have reported itching or sensory changes along the incision line, but these changes are usually temporary.

You will likely be asked to return to your surgeon's office within a few days so that he or she can remove the thick bandage and replace it with a lighter one that resembles a headband. Any stitches will dissolve or be removed within one week of your ear surgery.

The full cosmetic results of ear surgery are evident within 10 to 20 days, depending on the extent of the procedure and how well you adhere to your postoperative instructions.

Choose a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

The best way to ensure a smooth ear surgery recovery is to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon and to follow his or her instructions carefully. This includes being aware of any and all ear surgery risks, including infection.

Start your search for the right surgeon now.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Darrick E. Antell, MD, is an educational spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has been in private practice for more than 20 years in New York City. Dr. Antell is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Antell received his general surgery training at Stanford University Medical Center and his specialty training in plastic/reconstructive surgery at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.