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What is Microtia?

Microtia is a present-at-birth condition where the outer ear does not form or develop completely. Severity ranges from Type 1 (least severe) to Type 4 (most severe).

In the most severe cases, the entire external ear is missing, which is known as anotia. Some babies with microtia or anotia might also have a narrow or absent ear canal. While microtia and anotia can affect both ears, usually, they only impact one.

The UHealth facial plastic and reconstructive surgery team has the expertise to rebuild your child's external ear and ear canal.

Surgeons usually perform ear reconstruction surgery to treat microtia in children between 4 and 14 years old.

Children with more severe conditions will generally have surgery on the earlier end of this range. Some adults go through life with microtia or anotia and are also candidates for surgery.

What to Expect?

Before your procedure

You and your child will meet with a physician to examine the ear and administer a hearing test to determine if the condition impacts your child’s hearing. They will also discuss surgical options. The facial plastic and reconstructive surgery team may work in combination with an otology team to evaluate whether to reconstruct the ear canal or if a hearing aid is an option in your care.

There are two surgery options for more severe microtia.

During autologous surgery, your child’s surgeon will use cartilage from your child’s rib to reconstruct the ear.

This surgery takes place in two parts, several months apart.

During the first part, the surgeon will remove cartilage from your child’s ribs. They will then sculpt the rib cartilage and replace the ear cartilage with the cartilage from the rib. Your child will stay at the hospital overnight. A dressing will cover their ear for about a week, and they can return to full activity after a month or so.

Then, after a few months, your child’s surgeon may perform a second surgery to shape the ear’s position on the head. This second surgery has a shorter recovery time.

Alternatively, your child’s surgeon may recommend alloplastic surgery, in which the surgeon uses a prosthetic material to replace the cartilage in the ear.

This surgery typically happens in one step. Children do not generally need to stay in the hospital overnight after this procedure. However, your child may need to wear ear molds for an extended period to hold the new shape of their ear, depending on each individual case.

After either procedure

Your child may experience pain and discomfort. They also won’t be able to sleep on their side for several days. Cold packs or pain relievers will help ease any discomfort.

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