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What is ear reconstruction?

Ear reconstruction (or auricular reconstruction) is the construction of an ear that is completely or partially missing from a congenital deformity (microtia), trauma or cancer. Ear reconstruction is typically performed during a patient’s childhood years.

There are three types of ear reconstruction:

  • Otoplasty, which is the correction of prominent ears. It can be performed in adults or children at any age after 4 years.
  • Microtia repair, which is the construction of missing or exceedingly small ears using the patient's rib cartilage. Children with microtia do not have hearing on the affected side, but the hearing can be restored with a bone-anchored hearing aid.
  • Partial ear reconstruction involves the reconstruction of missing portions of the ears. These partial defects arise from cancer surgery or trauma - such as dog bites, burns and car accidents. Cartilage from the ribs is usually required.

At Northwell Health, our plastic surgeons perform all kinds of ear reconstruction and specialize in microtia repair.

What to expect

Before treatment, our pediatric plastic surgeons will begin by sending you or your child for an audiologic (hearing) evaluation. This will determine whether or not the middle ear needs to be reconstructed.

When reconstructing the auricle (outer ear), your plastic surgeon can create a prosthetic plastic ear, use a combination of a plastic frame and your own tissue or form an ear entirely from your own tissue and cartilage. Though every patient’s case is unique and requires its own approach, our plastic surgeons most often use the patient’s own skin and cartilage to create the most natural result.

Complications

There are very few risks of otoplasty surgery. There may be some mild scarring, but in most cases, scar lines will occur behind the ear and will not be visible. Total ear reconstruction, on the other hand, is a much more advanced procedure and complications may occur.

Recovery

After otoplasty surgery, there may be some pain or mild discomfort in the week following surgery.
Total ear reconstruction for microtia can be quite painful. Stitches can typically be removed after two weeks, and sports and activities can usually resume after three weeks. Most swelling subsides after one month but can take up to a year to go away entirely.

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