Ear deformities in children may range from mild to very complex. Some ear deformities are related to congenital syndromes, but most are isolated. The ear grows to the adult size at around six years of age. Therefore, most surgeries are performed at six to eight years of age.
Most common ear defects
The absence of an external ear: Microtia is the near absence of the external ear. Ear deformities are usually related to a condition known as hemifacial microsomia which includes abnormal growth of the lower jaw and the upper jaw. The ear can be reconstructed at 6-8 years of age, with the help of the patient’s ribs (cartilage). The procedure takes about 3-4 operations over a few months.
Prominent Ears: In some children, the ears appear strikingly outwards from the head. This makes the ears noticeably flat. An otoplasty is usually done to place the ears closer to the head by making bends to the ear. This surgery is done mostly around six years of age.
Constricted Ear: It is commonly known as “cup ear” or “lop ear”, the deformity involves a stunted height of the ear. Based on the range of severity, each deformity must be addressed individually.
Ear reconstruction surgery explained:
Stage 1: A skin pocket is made near the ear site by reshaping the available skin tissue and thinning the skin to replicate the ear skin. Cartilage from the ribs is then harvested in three pieces to proceed further in the surgery.
Stage 2: The rib cartilage is carved and wired together to create a very detailed ear structure. This grafted ear structure is then inserted into the skin pocket, and gentle suction is applied to make the skin and the grafted ear come together. This stage of the ear surgery takes 4-6 hours, and the required length of stay in the hospital comes up to 5-7 days.
Stage 3: Now the new ear needs to be put into position so that it sticks out from the head as a normal ear does. The new ear is then lifted with a piece of cartilage behind it to support its position. A flap of the skin tissue is used to cover the exposed cartilage. This takes 3-4 hours, and the expected hospital stay is 2-3 days.