Ear Protection after Otoplasty – When Is It Necessary?

Q : What kind of headband or sweatband do you have your patients wear after otoplasty? Thanks! How long do you have them wear this?

A: Otoplasty, or pinning back ears, uses internal permanent sutures to reshape the cartilage. This is done from an incision on the backside of the ear. The security of the sutures are very critical until enough scar tissue between the folded ear cartilages forms to act as a ‘cement’ to hold them permanently together. This is usually about six to eight weeks after surgery.

Accidental folding of the ear forward could loosen the sutures or pull them through the cartilage, thus allowing the recoil of the ear cartilages to cause relapse. This risk is largely age and activity dependent and determines whether and how long any form of ear protection should be used. In teenagers and adults, I recommend such ear protection only at night for two weeks where inadvertent turning on one’s side could pop a stitch. In children, ear protection should be used more liberally given their propensity to accidental events. For two weeks after surgery, ear protection is worn round the clock and then only at night for another two weeks.

While plastic surgeons may use a variety of ear protection methods after otoplasty, the simplest and most comfortable is a sweatband or athletic headband. Its soft elastic is comfortable and it is inexpensive. Multiple headbands can be purchased for a few dollars. In addition, its width is only an inch or two which makes it not too hot to wear.

Dr. Barry Eppley