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Rady Children's Specialists

Ear Deformities


Microtia means “small ear” and results from failure of its embryologic components to develop. It occurs with an incidence of one per 4,000 births and usually affects just one ear. Microtia more frequently affects boys and the right ear. The ear canal is usually absent and the middle ear is underdeveloped.

Reconstruction of an ear requires four operations:

  • Sculpturing rib cartilage into an ear framework
  • Moving the ear lobe into proper position
  • Elevating the new ear from the side of the head
  • Creating a tragus and deeper conchal bowl

In order for the rib cartilage to be large enough to sculpture an ear framework, surgery is performed when the child reaches 6 years of age. By performing one of the surgical stages every three months, the ear reconstruction is completed in one year.

If both ears are affected, CT scans are obtained and evaluated by an otologist specialized in reconstruction of the eardrum and middle ear.

Our pediatric craniofacial surgeons are very experienced and accomplished in the art of ear reconstruction and take special pleasure in treating each child with microtia.

Prominent Ears

The most common cause of prominent ears is lack of an antihelical fold, normally present just inside the rim of the ear. A wide concha or bowl of the ear can also contribute to prominence of the ear. Otoplasty is a surgical procedure used to correct prominent ears.

Children become self-conscious about their appearance at age 5-7 years, therefore making this the most common time for otoplasty procedures.

Children can typically be treated any time after 4 years of age, when the ear is nearly adult sized. The technique of otoplasty uses an incision on the back of the ears that is hidden from view. Through this incision, the antihelical fold can be created and the height of the conchal bowl can be reduced. Nicely positioned ears are symmetrical and their rims are between 15 and 20 mm from the side of the head.

The surgery itself is simple and reliable in most cases, providing an expert carries out the operation. Usually, the child can go home on the day of surgery. Our pediatric craniofacial plastic surgeons have tremendous experience with a wide range of ear operations and are well-suited to handle this delicate procedure.