Understanding Microtia And Microtia Surgery For Adults

Understanding Microtia and Microtia Surgery for Adults

Microtia, derived from the Latin words ‘micro’ and ‘otia’, meaning ‘little ear,’ is an uncommon congenital deformity characterized by an underdeveloped, small, or absent external ear. While it could affect both ears, it is more commonly found affecting one side. Those afflicted by this condition also often have a narrow ear canal, leading to hearing difficulties or in severe cases, even complete deafness on the affected side.

The severity of microtia varies but in its more severe forms, the external ear structure almost disappears. Its external manifestation does not reflect the state of the inner ear development, which, in most cases, is usually normal. Microtia occurs during the first trimester of fetal development, when the primitive ear structures fail to properly develop or fold. While certain environmental factors are under research, the exact cause is still unknown.

Microtia affects about 1 in every 6,000 to 12,000 babies worldwide and is more common among males and certain ethnic populations. While it could be part of a wider syndrome, in the majority of cases it occurs alone.

The treatment for microtia varies depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s preferences. In mild cases, the condition might not need any treatment, although it could potentially impact the patient’s self-esteem and social interactions due to aesthetic reasons. In most severe cases, audiological support or surgery may be required to improve hearing abilities, and for reconstructing the external ear anatomy.

When it comes to surgical procedures, it is advised waiting until the patient reaches an age where ear growth is fully developed. This typically happens around the age of six or more. However, this leads to a prevalent misconception that the surgery is only performed on children. On the contrary, microtia surgery for adults is a viable option. Microtia reconstruction can be successfully performed in adults, with outcomes as satisfactory as when it is performed on children.

The microtia surgery for adults usually takes place in several stages, with the first being the carving of a framework, usually from the patient’s own rib cartilage, into the shape of an ear. It is then implanted under the skin where the ear should have been. In later stages, this framework is elevated to give the appearance of a normal ear projecting from the side of the head. The surgery might also involve the creation of an ear canal or using a hearing aid device to improve the patient’s hearing ability.

While microtia surgery for adults can enhance the aesthetic appearance and improve the hearing ability of patients, it is not without complications. These may include infection, changes in chest shape due to rib cartilage removal, a higher chance of keloid or hypertrophic scar formation, and the possibility of structural deformation over time. Thus, a robust discussion with an expert ENT surgeon and weighing the benefits versus potential complications is a must before taking the decision.

Microtia, while a benign condition, could significantly affect one’s life from both aesthetic and functional perspectives. However, with advances in audiology and plastic surgery, people living with microtia have more options than ever to break out from the limitations imposed by this condition. Remember, it is never too late to seek treatment, and microtia surgery for adults is one such viable option which is continuously evolving and improving in methodology and outcomes.