Ear Surgery Risks and Side Effects

Reviewed by Scott R. Miller, MD, FACS

All surgeries have their share of benefits and risks, and ear surgery (otoplasty) is no exception. The good news is that serious complications following otoplasty are rare. Many ear surgery risks can be prevented by carefully following your surgeon's pre- and postoperative instructions. If the ear surgery is performed on a child, parents must take special precautions to make sure that the child follows the doctor's orders.

Among children, failure to avoid strenuous activities after ear surgery can result in the loosening of sutures. If this occurs, the ear may return to its pre-surgery shape.

Regardless of age, some ear surgery risks include:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Infection of the cartilage
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Asymmetry
  • Numbness or sensory changes
  • Blood clot in the ear (can usually be removed with a needle)
  • Hearing loss
  • Poor wound healing
  • Pigment changes
  • Dissatisfaction with the results
Otoplasty or ear surgery is one of the most common procedures for children.

Many of these risks can be prevented. For example, taking your antibiotics as directed for as long as directed can help lower your chances of developing an infection after ear surgery. If you smoke, quitting smoking before your ear surgery can also lower your risk of infection, as well as reduce your odds of poor wound healing.

After surgery, your surgeon will likely request that you wear a light protective head bandage for 10 to 14 days. Avoiding over-the-head shirts is also recommended; choose zip-up or button-up shirts instead. Protecting your ears after surgery can also help stave off any complications resulting from accidental injury to the ears. This is an especially important part of ear surgery recovery among children.

When ear surgery is performed on children aged of 6 to 10, the ear cartilage is less stiff and more pliable, which may decrease any potential risks and/or complications.

Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your ear surgery can also help minimize your risk of complications, maximize your satisfaction with the results of your otoplasty and help ensure a smooth ear surgery recovery. Board-certification is proof that the surgeon has met rigorous professional standards and is up-to-date on the latest ear surgery techniques and technologies. Start your search for the right surgeon now.