SEP 23, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Novel Approach Developed for Ear Replacement Surgery

Credit: Pixabay

In a recent study published in Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine, a team of researchers have developed a new method for ear replacement surgery, which is traditionally quite difficult using a patient’s rib cartilage. This study has the potential to produce simpler, faster, and more accurate ear replacement surgeries, and was conducted by researchers from the United States.

There are two types of congenital ear malformations that newborns exhibit: anotia (total absence of an ear) and microtia (just a cartilage stump of an ear), and it is estimated by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network that one in every 8,000 to 10,000 births are exhibit one of these two malformations.

As stated, this type of ear replacement surgery is traditionally difficult. Now, because of two novel tools developed by Dr. Angelo Leto Barone, who is a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon at Nemours Children's Health in Orlando, Florida, and former resident of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this type of surgery could soon be done simpler, faster, more accurate, and will be able to “custom fit” the new organ for every patient.

"Although ear reconstruction surgery for repairing microtia and anotia in both pediatric and adult cases has been practiced for a number of years, it still is a demanding procedure for both the patient and the surgeon," said Leto Barone. "What makes it really difficult is that to construct a suitable ear requires a bit of artistic skill."

For the study, Leto Barone and his colleague, Dr. Anirudh Arun, who is a Johns Hopkins interventional and diagnostic radiology surgery resident, 3D printed two assistive devices, therefore requiring less innate talent to perform the surgery. The first tool is an easy-to-use carving tool designed to precisely slice a patient’s rib cartilage to any desirable thickness while reducing waste. The second tool is described as a “cookie-cutter-like” press that uses steel blades that are shaped in designs fabricated from the patient’s normal ear and come together during surgery to form the new ear.

"The cartilage-slicing device basically doubles the amount of cartilage tissue available for surgery, meaning that less has to be harvested to safely produce the entire ear," said Arun. "We only need two and a half ribs instead of the traditional four from prior techniques -- less waste and less discomfort for the patient."

After the cartilage slices are placed into the second cutter, they are trimmed exactly into the pieces of the new ear within minutes rather than the traditional hours-long manual work with a scalpel.

"Not only is the process quicker, but the template eliminates the cartilage damage that often accompanies the sculpting done in previous reconstruction methods," said Leto Barone. "This makes our system highly reproducible, user friendly, time efficient and cost effective. Best of all, it consistently yields a natural-looking ear that helps children avoid being teased or bullied and enables adults to do things others take for granted, like wearing glasses."

Sources: Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
MS in Geological Sciences
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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