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Reconstructing Ears

Leah Sarich | posted Friday, May 6th, 2016

About one in every three thousand babies is born without an ear. And one in 1500 is born without an ear because of syndrome like the one 13 year old Alassandro Manzoni was born with. Alassandro’s syndrome affects five parts of his face including his ear. His case is one of the worst his reconstructive surgeon Dr. Ryan Frank has ever seen. But Dr. Frank has made great progress making Alassandro a new ear. The process began a couple of years ago. And it’s a big one. To create a new ear, Dr. Frank says it usually takes three surgeries over a year and a half.

The first surgery is the biggest one. Dr. Frank says this surgery is usually six to eight hours in the operating room. Children typically undergo this surgery after the age of 6 when the good ear is 90 percent formed. Dr. Frank makes a model of the good ear, reverses it then uses it as a model for the new ear. He then takes part of the rib cartilage out of the child, bends it and forms it to match the model ear using tiny wires to hold the pieces of cartilage together. He then implants the cartilage ear under the skin and lets the child recover. A month or so later, with the second surgery, Dr. Frank will lift that cartilage ear to give it some projection and make it look more like the good ear. The third surgery usually involves inserting fat into the new ear to make it look as natural as possible.

Dr. Frank says the best results occur when using the child’s own tissue. He says there is a better chance the ear will get a blood supply and less of a chance of infection or of the body rejecting the ear.

Alassandro likely has a couple more surgeries to go before his ear is completed. But he’s already very pleased with the results. He says his new ear is “cool and pretty awesome.” He explains it’s much better “than everyone staring at me.” And that’s what it’s all about says Dr. Frank. Creating the ear is not about helping the child hear better, they can hear well with one ear and with the help of a hearing aid. It’s a cosmetic procedure to help the child look and feel as normal as possible.

For more information on microtia or small ear defect visit this site.

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