Microtia and Ear Surgery - Considerations for a Parent
Ear surgery is always on the table for a child born with a congenital malformation like microtia, but there are considerations to be thought over carefully.
Before you can even begin to consider ear surgery, it's important to know what you're dealing with. Microtia literally translates to "little ear". It is a congenital defect that causes the outer portion of the ear to become underdeveloped. While this can sometimes cause hearing problems, it is usually an aesthetic matter exclusively. This is not to say it isn't important, of course, as no one wants to go through life with something that makes them stand out. With a culture more concerned than ever before about physical appearances, it can be genuinely difficult to go through life with a deformity.
If your new baby is born with microtia, you should understand a few things right off the bat. First of all, the deformity is entirely treatable. Ear surgery is a viable option, though this might not be open to exploration until further down the road. In the meantime, you should take comfort in knowing that the child should be able to hear, even if the microtia has affected the hearing to some degree. On the other hand, the news is not all sunshine and rainbows. In addition to the social challenges the child will almost certainly face, they are also more susceptible to ear infections. These infections can have an adverse effect on an already limited scope of hearing, so they should be treated carefully and quickly.
Doctors must wait until the child is old enough to have sufficient cartilage to remove for the repair. Generally, this can happen when the child is between five and seven years of age. There are a couple of procedures required for most reconstruction. The first procedure is designed to build the new ear and the second is designed to raise the ear away from the head. The cartilage used to build the ear will be taken from the child's ribs. It is an invasive procedure, but a qualified and experienced surgeon should be able to do it without much risk involved.
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