Ear reconstruction, using a patient’s own cartilage, provides the best solution for the child who is born with a tiny malformed ear (which is called microtia). It can also be used for the traumatic loss of an ear through an accident.
For children who were born with an underdeveloped ear, cosmetic surgery can begin as early as age six. Older patients can be benefitted immediately following the accidental loss of an ear. In all cases, the most effective method for success will be achieved by carving a new framework from the patient’s own rib cartilage. Atresia refers to the absence of the external canal, which is almost always associated with microtia. If the internal components are developed well enough, an external ear canal can be created. This, however, should not be done until the external microtia repair has been completed.
While there are a number of artificial frameworks available, these are not living material, and the chance that they will erode through the skin is high. When this happens, an infection will occur. The artificial framework will have to be removed, and the patient may have lost their chance for a successful ear reconstruction.
The normal external ear is made of cartilage covered by skin. Our method seeks to recreate the natural ear. A living ear created from the patient’s own tissues, when done well, is preferable to a “stick-on” prosthetic ear or an ear created over a synthetic/artificial framework. The quality of the result for the cartilage-based ear depends upon the surgeon’s artistic ability to carve or sculpt the cartilage.
The patient is a seven-year-old male who has undergone staged procedures for the reconstruction of the undeveloped or microtic ear. It is important to delay surgery until the patient has reached an age when most of the ear growth has been achieved on the opposite side. The surgeon uses the opposite ear as a guide, or template, to achieve an artistic reconstruction. In this patient, the result demonstrates a close-to-normal appearing reconstructed ear. This represents the optimal result available in ear reconstruction.
Dr Grant Fairbanks is considered to be one of the best ear reconstruction surgeons in the country.