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Understanding The Reconstructive Surgery Options For Your Child's Microtia

If your child was born with a condition known as microtia, which means they have an incomplete or missing ear on at least one side of their body, you may find yourself wondering what you should do to help treat the condition. There are several different treatment options available for this condition that can help with the aesthetic appearance of your child's ears as well as other hearing issues that may occur. Get to know more about some of the reconstructive surgery options for your child's microtia so that you can decide which option (if any) is right for your child.  

Cartilage-Based Reconstruction

The most popular reconstructive surgery option for children with microtia is a surgical option that uses your child's own cartilage to build a new ear that is then surgically placed on your child's head. This is the most natural option and is the least likely to be rejected by their body (because the tissue is from your child's own body).

The surgery first involves a small incision in the chest from which tissue from your child's rib is harvested. This tissue from the rib is then used to build the external structure of an ear. If your child was born with unilateral microtia, meaning one side is affected, then the reconstructive surgeons will try to build the new ear to match their other as closely as possible. But if your child has bilateral microtia, there will be two chest incisions (performed separately) and two matching ears built.

This cartilage-based reconstruction occurs in steps, as it takes time to build the ear and to heal. Oftentimes, it takes three procedures spaced out over several months to complete an ear reconstruction and get the ear properly position and grafted.

Artificial Implants

There are other options available for microtia other than the cartilage implant. The implants can also be made from artificial materials, specifically polyethylene. This is still a surgical procedure, but the entirety of the surgery is on your child's head and does not affect the rest of their body.

Skin tissue must be removed from the area behind the ear to be able to graft onto the ear implant and cover it. This type of surgery can be performed earlier in life than the cartilage surgery, but it may be more likely to fail due to the technical difficulty for the surgeon and the fact that your child's body may reject the artificial materials.


Prosthetics are another option for microtia. This procedure involves surgically implanting magnets or an attachment bar into the side of your child's skull. The prosthetic ear is then attached to those implants. Prosthetic ears can look very realistic but do need to be removed every night before going to sleep and will not tan, sweat, or otherwise change, which may make them more noticeable in certain situations.

Now that you know more about the options for your child's microtia, you can make a more informed decision about how you would like to help your child overcome the aesthetic issues from the microtia. If you have any questions, contact a reconstructive surgeon in your area.