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Ear Reduction (Macrotia)

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Macrotia surgery, or reduction otoplasty, refers to a specific type of cosmetic ear surgery designed to reduce the size of excessively large ears. San Diego Macrotia Specialist Dr. John Hilinski is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon offering ear reduction surgery with personalized treatment plans.

Do I Have Macrotia? Assessing Large Ears


If you are bothered by big ears or protruding ears and you feel that your ears are out of proportion with your other facial features, ear reconstruction surgery may be an option for you. Dr. Hilinski can assess if your prominent ears are actually considered to have macrotia. This medical condition is harmless but can negatively affect self-esteem.

The adjacent photo diagrams demonstrate the assessment of macrotia in an actual patient of Dr. Hilinski. As is common in many macrotia patients (but not all), you can see the frontal view does not always show obvious signs the ear is excessively large. But when you look at the ears from the oblique (45 degree angle) or side views, you can begin to appreciate how the ear is considered abnormally large from top to bottom. This is shown by the two colored arrows indicating the long axis of the ear (red) and the short axis of the ear (yellow). When either or both of these dimensions is excessive, the ear will appear too large – and the patient is considered to have macrotia.

Average Ear Size

To put things into perspective, the average length (red arrow) of the adult ear is around 55-65 millimeters and average width (yellow arrow) is 30-45 millimeters.<sup>1</sup> The ratio of these two measurements is also considered – with the average ratio of width:length being approximately 50-55%. When any of these dimensions is beyond the normal range, the ear can appear too large overall.

Which Part of My Ear Should be Smaller?


In a majority of macrotia surgery patients, it is the upper one half of the ear that is the primary problem. This is indicated in the adjacent photo diagram as outlined in red and reflects a good portion of what is called the scapha of the ear, or scaphoid fossa. The scapha refers to that portion of the ear between the antihelix (blue dotted line) and the helical rim of the ear, or helix (yellow dotted line). In cases of macrotia, it is the scapha that is oftentimes overly developed, contributing to the upper half of the ear looking too prominent. As you can see from the photo diagram, the scapha is a curved segment of the ear going from the middle of the back border, extending upward and forward to the top of the front border.

Ear Reduction Surgery Vs. Ear Pinning

Although many patients undergo otoplasty surgery to pin the ears closer to the side of the head because they appear too prominent, in many cases pinning the ear is not the right answer. That is because many patients suffer from true macrotia – which means their ears stick out because they are simply too large. Disproportionate ears can be too large in terms of measuring from the top to bottom and/or from the front to back border. Although some macrotia patients have ears that are positioned a normal distance from the surface of the head, many suffer from an ear that also sticks out too far. Ear reduction surgery is the best option for patients who want smaller ears.

About Macrotia Ear Plastic Surgery


Macrotia ear plastic surgery involves a special type of otoplasty that targets the upper one half of the ear. Specifically, the surgery is intended to reduce the size of the scapha. This is shown in the adjacent photo diagram where the white arrows indicate how the entire scapha should be reduced in size. By cutting a portion of the scapha out, the overall length of the ear can be shortened and the overall width of ear can be narrowed.

The key to macrotia ear plastic surgery is to reduce the entire scapha region while preserving a natural-looking ear shape and contour. This includes preservation of the helical rim outline and the antihelix ridge.

How Does Ear Reduction Surgery Work?


Dr. Hilinski typically uses a technique that involves hiding a majority of the incision on the inner surface of the helical rim. This is shown in the adjacent photo as indicated by the faded dotted line, which represents the portion of the incision that is ‘hidden’ under the helical rim. The darker dotted line shows where the mirrored cut is made through the actual scapha. The intervening area of the scapha (between the two curved cuts) is then removed in the shape of a crescent. This step involves removing the skin as well as the underlying excess cartilage structure. 


There is one portion of the incision that has to be made across the helical rim somewhere. This allows Dr. Hilinski to ‘close’ the ear up without distorting the natural helical rim contour. While some surgeons prefer to place this particular cut along the middle or lower portion of the helix, Dr. Hilinski tends to position this cut closer to the front of the ear in some cases. This is shown by the two parallel dotted lines seen in the photo diagram to the right.

The actual intra-operative view of this same ear is shown to the left. This shows how the skin has been cut to expose the underlying anatomy. In addition, you can see in this photo how the excess scapha cartilage has been cut out (you can see the purple line where the cartilage was cut). This is actually why many ear plastic surgeons refer to this procedure as scapha or scaphoid reduction surgery. In this photo you can also see the parallel lines cut through the helical rim with removal of this segment of skin and cartilage. In essence a good portion of the upper half of this ear has been effectively cut away.

In some cases of macrotia, this dissection is extended more inferiorly (closer to the bottom of the ear) in order to address other areas that may be excessively large, such as the conchal bowl and the lobule.

Once this portion of the operation has been completed, the cut edges of cartilage need to be sutured back together to maintain proper support of the framework of the ear. After the cartilage has been put back together, excess skin is removed and the skin edges are then carefully aligned all around the top half of the ear to restore a natural look.

Recovery from Macrotia Ear Plastic Surgery

At the conclusion of the macrotia plastic surgery procedure, a compression wrap is placed around the ears. This wrap can be somewhat uncomfortable for some patients, but pain and discomfort are relatively well-controlled with a low dose narcotic medication that is prescribed to you. This bandage wrap stays in place for only about 1-2 days following macrotia otoplasty surgery. After this period of time, you will be recommended to wear a much lighter version of the wrap for several more weeks – but only when sleeping.

Most macrotia ear surgery patients begin to resume public appearances in about 5-6 days. Although the ears still appear mild to moderately swollen, most people will not notice much during routine conversations.

It is recommended that macrotia ear surgery patients clean the incision lines 2-3 times per day during the first several weeks of the healing process. The end point of the cleaning is to avoid any scabbing or crusting along the incision lines. Contrary to what many people believe, scabbing and crusting of incisions can lead to unwanted complications in terms of wound healing.

Overall, it takes many months (sometimes up to one year) for the final healing process to be completed. Dr. Hilinski will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your progress.

Planning Your Macrotia Procedure*

Average Cost: $9,000
Average Procedure Time: 2 hours
Average Recovery Time: 5 – 7 days
Post-Op Consultation: 3 months

*Procedure pricing and results with Dr. Hilinski may vary. Your personalized treatment plan and pricing will be determined at your consultation appointment.

Macrotia Ear Plastic Surgery Results

The following are case examples of patients of mine who had macrotia ear plastic surgery to correct excessively large ears.

Case Example

This is another patient of mine who present with a chief complaint of having ears that were too large for her desire. After consulting with her, it became more clear that she really disliked how big her ears were in proportion to the rest of her facial features. More specifically, she was bothered by the scapha region being too big and wanted a scapha reduction procedure. Ultimately, she ended up undergoing the scapha reduction in addition to some conchal bowl reduction and lobule reshaping. These photos here show the changes that were made primarily with the macrotia ear plastic surgery technique reviewed above. As you can see from her before and nearly 10 months after photos, the overall size of the ear has been made smaller now – especially in the region of the scapha.


Before and After Examples

The following are more case examples of patients.

If you are suffering from excessively large ears and feel like you might be a candidate for macrotia ear plastic surgery to reduce the overall size, contact my facial plastic surgery office today for a complimentary cosmetic consultation with one of the region’s foremost experts in plastic surgery of the ear.

For more detailed information regarding cosmetic ear reduction surgery by world renowned macrotia expert, Dr. John Hilinski, visit our sister sites dedicated to plastic surgery of the ear and scapha ear reduction (macrotia) surgery.

Contact Dr. Hilinski For Ear Reconstruction

If you are suffering from excessively large ears and feel like you might be a candidate for macrotia ear plastic surgery to reduce the overall size, contact my facial plastic surgery office today for a complimentary cosmetic consultation with one of the region’s foremost experts in plastic surgery of the ear.

For more detailed information regarding cosmetic ear reduction surgery by world renowned macrotia expert, Dr. John Hilinski, visit our sister sites dedicated to plastic surgery of the ear and scapha ear reduction (macrotia) surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Macrotia Ear Plastic Surgery

Will ear reduction surgery hurt?

Your ears will be completely numbed up during surgery, so you will feel no pain during the procedure. You will likely feel some discomfort during your recovery, but it is markedly less compared to having otoplasty, or true ear pinning. Dr. Hilinski can prescribe medication to help you feel more comfortable.

What are the risks of macrotia surgery?

All surgery carries some risk and Dr. Hilinski always prioritizes patient safety to minimize your risk of side effects or complications. Possible risks of ear reduction surgery include bleeding, infection, changes in skin sensation, scarring, and anesthesia risks.

Am I a candidate for ear reshaping surgery?

The only way to determine if this surgery is right for you is to schedule a consultation appointment with a plastic surgeon who performs this type of unique cosmetic ear surgery. Contact us to learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Hilinski, who is Board Certified and one of the nation’s and world’s leading experts in treating macrotia.

How much does ear reduction surgery cost?

The cost of macrotia surgery varies according to each patient’s unique anatomy and needs, but on average this procedure costs $9,000. If you have concerns about the cost of macrotia surgery, please contact our practice so that we can help you explore the many payment and financing options available to our patients.

What causes macrotia?

Some people are simply born with large or protruding ears, and this may be an inherited aesthetic trait. Additionally, there are a number of medical conditions that are associated with macrotia, or excessively large ears.

Does macrotia affect hearing?

No. While some individuals with macrotia may suffer from additional conditions that impact their ability to hear, macrotia in itself does not cause hearing impairment.

How long after cosmetic ear surgery until I can return to work?

Initially after ear reduction surgery, you will need to wear a bandage head wrap and may experience some discomfort, so you might be more comfortable at home. We recommend that patients wait 5-6 days after macrotia surgery before returning to work or public activities. It is best that you refrain from strenuous physical activity for 2-4 weeks after macrotia surgery.

1 Brucker MJ, Patel J, Sullivan PK, et al. A morphometric study of the external ear: age- and sex-related differences. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2003 Aug;112(2):647-52; discussion 653-4.

2 Mayo Clinic. Otoplasty. Available: Accessed January 22, 2020.

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