FAQs about ear pinning surgery

Written by: Mr Paul Chatrath
Edited by: Nicholas Howley

Is it a major operation? Is there an ideal age for surgery? How can I refer my child for ear pinning surgery? And how much does it cost? We put your most common questions about ear pinning surgery to Mr Paul Chatrath, a distinguished London ear, nose and throat surgeon, specialising in rhinology and facial plastic surgery.

Is ear pinning surgery a major operation?

Surgery to improve the shape and positioning of the ears is routine elective surgery, usually performed under a general anaesthetic – although sometimes a local anaesthetic can be used.

It can take anything from 15 minutes (if the Earfold technique is used), up to around 45 minutes per ear for a traditional pinnaplasty or otoplasty procedure. In both cases, you should be able to go home on the same day.

What are the latest techniques being used?

There are some less invasive alternative techniques to traditional pinnaplasty surgery, and in particular some recent advances in the last few years.

Suture refinement

Minimally-invasive suture refinement techniques involve placing a stitch from the outside through the skin and cartilage to reshape the ear without the need for an external cut or incision. This can be performed under a local anaesthetic, but it is generally only suitable for younger children with very soft ear cartilage.

The Earfold implant

The Earfold Implant has offered a novel and minimally invasive alternative to traditional pinnaplasty/otoplasty surgery. It involves the use of a lightweight yet strong implant made of titanium, nickel and 24 carat gold which is inserted beneath the skin at the front of the ear. This causes the ear to curl backwards and regain its upper fold that is most likely to have been deficient. It is a more straightforward procedure than a traditional surgery, being undertaken under a local anaesthetic, and taking only 15 minutes per ear.

There are many advantages to the earfold implant. For example, you don’t need to wear a head bandage all of the time in the days after treatment, and you can also get back to work or school sooner than after traditional surgery. One other advantage is that you can have an idea as to how your ears might look by trying the Prefold tester implant in clinic.

One disadvantage is that the edges of the implant can sometimes show through. It is also not possible to tailor the end result to exactly what you would like as closely as you can with traditional pinnaplasty surgery. These options will be discussed with you in clinic when you consult with your specialist.

Is there an ideal age for ear pinning/ear correction surgery?

One of the most common ages to undergo this type of surgery is shortly after your child has started attending school, usually around the age of 6-10. There are also some teenagers and younger adults who attend who feel self-conscious about how their ears look, and particularly if you are reluctant to wear your hair up.

It is also increasingly common to see adults presenting for surgery, in whom traditional pinnaplasty was never offered or never appealed to them, and in whom the Earfold implant has offered a less invasive, simpler alternative.

How can I get my child referred for ear pinning?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to get ear pinning surgery on the NHS. This is in line with other forms of cosmetic surgery which are no longer routinely funded, unless there are particular extenuating circumstances such as psychological distress which has been assessed and confirmed by a paediatric psychologist or psychiatrist. In such situations, funding by the local commissioning GPs might be approved.

Otherwise, the only option is to consider having the surgery privately. Ear reshaping surgery is undertaken by both plastic surgeons and ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons with an interest in facial plastic surgery. It is important to try to find a surgeon who can undertake both traditional pinnaplasty and more minimally invasive ear reshaping techniques such as suture-based refinement and Earfold implant, as this will allow the most appropriate treatment to be recommended for you.

What does it cost roughly in the UK?

The cost to undergo ear reshaping surgery depends on a number of factors, including location within the UK, whether one or both ears are being operated, and whether the technique used is Earfold or a traditional pinnaplasty. Costs can vary widely, ranging from £1800 to £4000 on average.

If you would like to discuss your surgical options for ear pinning with Mr Chatrath, click here to see available appointments and book online .

By Mr Paul Chatrath
Otolaryngology / ENT

Prof Paul Chatrath is a skilled and distinguished London ear, nose and throat surgeon, specialising in rhinology and facial plastic surgery. With over 20 years of experience, he provides a wide range of ENT, head and neck and plastic surgery procedures to both adults and children from his private practices in London, Brentwood and Buckhurst. 

Prof Paul Chatrath completed his premedical degree at the University of Cambridge in 1992 and subsequent clinical training, continuing on to obtain his MBBS degree from the London Hospital Medical College, with distinctions in 3 subjects and was granted Proxime Accessit to the University of London Gold Medal. He finalised his higher surgical training in ENT surgery in London and was granted a Certificate of Completion of Training in ENT Surgery, upon passing the final FRCS examination. Thanks to his research into the role of surface brushings of the larynx in discriminating between cancerous areas and benign (non-cancerous) lesions, Prof Chatrath was awarded an MD high research degree with the University of London. He also completed further training in specialist units in Chicago and Amsterdam after earning the Lionel College & New York Travelling Fellowships by the Royal College of Surgeons, and travel grants by the Royal Society of Medicine and the Journal of Laryngology & Otology.  

Prof Chatrath has performed over 1000 rhinoplasty operations and over 1500 paediatric ENT procedures including tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and the insertion of grommets. He has also been a leader in pioneering nasal and sinus operations, like balloon sinuplasty for the non-invasive management of sinus disease. Although he manages all general ENT conditions, he is interested in particular in nose and sinus problems, allergy, cosmetic deformities, children´s ENT disorders, voice problems and snoring.  He practices in 150 Harley Street, Spire Hartswood Hospital, Spire London East Hospital, The Holly Hospital, Hospital of Sain John and Saint Elizabeth and the London Clinic.

Alongside his clinical practice, Prof Chatrath is also active in ENT teaching and research. He holds the position of Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford. He is also Professor of Rhinology at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, here he leads a module in rhinology and facial plastic surgery for the MCh (ENT), postgraduate study in surgery. His research focuses on the clinical assessment of patients with nasal obstruction. He has published over 40 papers in peer reviewed journals and has also contributed chapters to books.  

Prof Chatrath aims to give his patients the best care, in a professional yet sympathetic manner. He understands the importance of communication with his patients both before and after surgical procedures, answering queries actively throughout the process. 

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