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Microtia is a relatively rare birth defect that causes very small, misshapen, or missing structures of the ear. It can occur on one or both sides of the head. Most children with microtia experience only partial hearing loss, since their inner ears are usually unaffected. The greatest challenge in treating microtia is reconstructing the malformed or missing ear(s), often done to improve physical appearance, increase self-esteem and enhance quality of life. This requires specialized care from a multidisciplinary team of plastic surgeons, audiologists (hearing specialists), otolaryngologists (also known as “ear, nose and throat doctors”) and other experts.
The team at Boston Children's Microtia Program consists of these specialists,each with a unique role in providing care for our patients and their families. And because Boston Children's is the only hospital in Massachusetts focused solely on the care of young patients, our entire team is specially trained to make treatment as easy as possible for young patients and their families. In addition to offering diagnosis and treatment options, we provide information on the condition, as well as guidance and support for our patients and their families as.
To speak with a member of Boston Children's Microtia Program, please call 617-355-2306.
Treatment for microtia generally begins with Auditory brain response evaluation (ABR) to check the inner ear function of a baby with microtia.
During the test, small, painless sensors will be attached to your child’s head as he/she sleeps. Earphones will transmit sounds at different pitches into each of the ears, and a special computer will monitor brain wave patterns measuring response to those sounds.
In many cases surgical treatment is used to correct the ear's shape. The most common type of operation for microtia we perform at Boston Children’s is called autologous auricular construction.
During this operation, specially trained pediatric plastic surgeons will take cartilage from your child’s ribcage and use it to “plant” a new ear on the affected side of the head. The process uses your child’s own tissue, so if the new ear is ever injured it can heal itself just as a natural ear would.
Autologous construction is performed when a child is 6 years of age or older. He/she needs to be old enough to have sufficient rib cartilage to “spare”, and 6 years is about the age when the ear on the other side (if applicable) will reach its approximate adult size—so the surgeons can be sure to line up the new ear to match it.
In some cases an ear implant or prosthesis ear—artificial ear made from synthetic materials instead of cartilage—may be used instead of natural cartilage. You and your care team will decide which option is most appropriate for your child.
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