Microtia is a congenital defect that occurs at birth and often affects only one ear. The name of this condition is derived from Latin language translating to "little ear." This condition manifests as an underdeveloped ear and occurs mainly in boys. This deformity can range from a slightly underdeveloped external ear to the outer structures being almost nonexistent. This birth defect happens once in 7,500 births within the United States. For some reason, ethnicity plays a part in the occurrence rate. African-Americans and Caucasians have fewer occurrences than Asians or Hispanics. The levels of severity are graded from Grade 1 to Grade 4 with the fourth being the most severe.
In Grade 1, there is the least amount of deformity. The ear is minimally smaller than usual and the canal is intact. With Grade 2, the canal is closed off and there may be some hearing problems. The external structures resemble a tiny ear and may have portions missing. In Grade 3, the canal and drum are missing. In this grade, the external structure is just a bump that's barely recognizable. In Grade 4, there is no external structure at all. This most severe form of microtia is also called anotia.
Luckily, there are treatment options for children suffering from microtia. An effective ear reconstruction technique involves using a rib graft and actual tissue. Although this takes some time because there will be a series of operations to complete the process, the resulting ear is natural looking. Because it's made from transplanted tissue from the child's body, it will grow and respond like a normal ear. Plastic prosthetic devices have to be refitted and may break or fall off during athletic activities. The reconstructed ears can even be pierced which is popular with girls and some boys, as well.
Surgery to correct microtia can ideally be carried out at age five or six years old. In early childhood, kids don't usually notice that they look any different than others. It's when they get to school that children start to be teased and their self-esteem can be affected. For this reason, it's recommended that the ear reconstruction procedures be performed as soon as the child weighs forty pounds and is ready to undergo surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon harvests the rib bone and begins the series of operations to create a new ear.
When children are born with microtia, it can be a traumatic experience for all concerned. Parents may feel guilty as if they caused it, especially if they have the genetic predisposition to do so. If there is a hearing loss, that will need to be addressed as well. Whether a child exhibits Grade 1, 2, 3, or 4, a skilled surgeon can repair the problem.