It is not rare that a patient will request to see if some face or body feature they have can be changed to look more like that possessed by a certain celebrity. Whether it be a nose, jawline, breasts or buttocks, the shape of the famous has always motivated others to seek the same. But in almost all these cases, the desire has been to achieve known shape and proportions of body features that are variations along anatomical features that can naturally occur.
But unusual face and body changes do get requested and occasionally done. One such example is the procedure known as ear pointing or elf ear surgery. The description alone tells you exactly what is being done. The desire for this procedure undoubtably has its history in Star Trek and the character Spock. But the more recent movie series of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies puts only display a much larger number of characters with different ear shapes, almost all of them with ear points of various elongations.
This has driven a few fans and devotees of the films to actually having their ears reshaped. One such fan who is a young model who recently underwent the procedure and chronicled her experience in an online video on YouTube which can be found under Elf Ear surgery. While many would understandably question the motivation for such an unusual ear modification, that decision and explanation is best left for the patient to answer. What is more anatomically relevant is can it really be done and, if so, how?
The normal ear is formed by islands of cartilage (six to be exact) that come together to form a complex series of raised ridges and valleys. One of these prominent cartilage ridges is the one that rings around the upper two-thirds of the ear known as the outer helix. It essentially goes a long way in creating the recognizable ear shape of humans. The top of the outer helix forms an upper semicircle that surrounds the upper 1/3 of the ear. Inside the outer helix is the antihelix which represents a folding of the conchal cartilage and has a similar prominence to the outer helix. This is what is created in the classic ear pinning surgery for prominent ears. As the antihelical fold comes into the top of the ear it branches about two-thirds of the way along its course to form the broad fold of the superior (posterior) antihelical crus and the more sharply folded inferior (anterior) crus. Between the superior and inferior crus is the indentation known as the triangular fossa.
Ear pointing is done by taking a small wedge of skin and cartilage from the upper ear. This is like removing a slice of pie that contains the outer helix and potentially some portion of the superior crus. This triangular excision needs to be done closer to the junction of the upper and ascending outer helix so that when it is sutured together it creates a well defined point. In elf ear surgery, a much larger wedge of ear tissue is removed that effectively removes most of the superior and inferior crus so that the approximation effectively flattens the upper outer helix.
Like all ear reconstruction and reshaping surgery, it requires an understanding of how to manipulate the natural ear cartilages to obtain the desired shape. Ear pointing and ear elf surgery illustrate this point to the extreme.
Dr. Barry Eppley