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Ear pinning surgery: what you need to know about this increasingly popular cosmetic procedure

Photo by Kimia Zarifi on Unsplash
Photo by Kimia Zarifi on Unsplash

The number of people opting for medical aesthetic interventions to help them look and feel their best has been on a steady increase. However, it’s not just procedures targeting the visible signs of ageing that are popular.

Recent statistics reveal that the number of people opting for ear-pinning surgery has increased significantly over the past year.

The operation - once restricted primarily to young children - is rapidly becoming one of the most popular cosmetic options for adults who are unhappy with their appearance, and the procedure is particularly common among men. In fact, it is now the second most popular cosmetic surgery for male patients.

This is according to Dr Gertruida van Niekerk, a plastic surgeon at The Specialist Laser and Cosmetic Institute (SCIN) @ Wembley Square in Cape Town, with a special interest in otoplasty and ear reconstruction, who says that there seems to be more and more people wanting this operation.

“I have noticed a marked increase in inquiries about ear pinning surgery recently – possibly down to Covid-19 necessary Zoom meetings which have shone a spotlight on the head and face. Those people who were already self-conscious about their ears might have noticed their protrusion more, and those who never really took a second look might suddenly be scrutinizing themselves through their laptop lens.”

According to Dr van Niekerk, another contributing factor for the increase in people electing to undergo ear pinning surgery may be that this sort of operation can now be done as an out-patient procedure under local anaesthetic whereas previously it was always under general anaesthetic. “With many people now working from home we have seen a rise in cosmetic procedures overall as the recovery can be done in the privacy of your home office without colleagues and friends witnessing your journey – the same is possibly true when it comes to ear surgery, contributing to the growing number of people opting for this procedure.”

So, here’s what you need to know about ear pinning:

What Is Ear Pinning Surgery (Otoplasty)?

“Ear pinning is a surgical cosmetic procedure that is performed on the outer ears to angle the ears closer to the head to make them less prominent. It’s a safe and effective treatment that can be carried out on both adults and children,” says Dr van Niekerk.

“During a prominent ear correction surgery, cartilage is modified with sutures to accomplish the main objective. For adults, the procedure can be done in-office under local anaesthesia or in the OR under sedation. The procedure usually takes just over 30 minutes per ear. All children have the procedure performed in the operating room.”

“All incisions are made behind the ears so that they are easily concealable, and patients will experience minimal post-operative discomfort.”

Recovering from Ear Pinning Surgery

Dr van Niekerk explains that ear pinning results are virtually immediate, and because the procedure is considered minimally invasive, the recovery process is short and manageable. “As with any surgical procedure, bruising and swelling are common for up to two weeks post-op.”

“When the person goes home, there will be a bandage covering the operative ear/s, along with a compression dressing that holds the restructured ear/s in place. The bandage stays in place for one week. Once the bandage comes off, patients can gently wash their face and hair. Doctors’ instructions will clarify how to clean the wound area with a cotton swab and protect the incision with antibiotic ointment.”

“The person should be prepared not to wear glasses or earrings for three weeks. Slight swelling, itching and numbness are common after ear pinning surgery and resolve on their own in a few weeks.”

Consulting a Plastic Surgeon for Ear Pinning

“It is important to consult with an expert plastic surgeon who specializes in surgery of the outer ear,” sys Dr van Niekerk, who advises that for an adult’s consultation for a possible ear pinning, the surgeon will ask the person about:

  • Medical history and physical health, including:
  1. A history of smoking
  2. Cardiovascular disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. High blood pressure or other circulatory disorders
  5. An unusual tendency to scar
  6. Any disorders related to blood clotting
  • Attitude and expectations

In addition, the surgeon will explain:

  • What the person can expect from the procedure
  • Where the surgery will take place
  • Recommendations for anaesthesia
  • Possible complications
  • Other recommended procedures

Benefits of Ear Pinning Surgery

According to Dr van Niekerk, the most significant benefit of this surgical procedure is how it offers instant results.

“Patients will immediately gain a self-confidence boost. For many people who have spent years trying to hide their ears and feeling self-conscious, this really is a life-changing cosmetic procedure!”

Dr van Niekerk advises that anyone who is interested in ear pinning surgery can contact SCIN @ Wembley Square to make an appointment for an initial consult to discuss their options.

For more information contact SCIN on: 021 465 6557, email [email protected] or visit

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