There are two types of ear deformities, being the congenital ear deformity (when someone is born with them) or the traumatic ear deformity (caused by injury). It is very important for doctors to first identify which of the two is the cause, before they decide on the appropriate treatment option. This is particularly true with traumatic deformities, because tissue or pieces of ear may be missing, which will have to be reconstructed.
With congenital deformities, it is important to determine the type of deformity that is actually present before deciding which treatment option, if any, is appropriate. There are six main problems that regularly occur and need treatment. These are:
• Prominent ears
• Constricted ear deformity
• Stahl’s ear deformity
The two most common ones are prominent ears and constricted ear deformity. Let’s take a look at these in greater detail.
This is a very common deformity in children, and it is identified when the ears stick out further from the skull than what would be classed as normal. The prominence can be on any part of the ear. More often than not, the cause of this is excess conchal cartilage, although it can also be caused by abnormal forming of the ear in the womb, or incorrect positioning of ear cartilage. You can read more about protruding ears here.
If the deformity is noticed at birth, it is often possible to use ear-molding techniques in order to correct the problem. However, this must be started within two weeks of birth. If it is not possible to do this, then ear deformity surgery is sometimes needed. Usually, this means excess conchal cartilage is removed. The helical fold is then recreated, and various suturing techniques are then applied to completely reposition the ear. More often than not, this surgery is performed on children of between 4 and 5 years old, and the procedure is done on an outpatient basis.
Constricted Ear Deformity
With this deformity, the ear looks cupped. This is caused when the superior helix hoods, causing the deformity. More often than not, this is noticed at birth. If the deformity is mild and identified at birth, molding techniques may be used to improve it. However, again, it is important to ensure this happens within the first 2 weeks of life. In more significant deformities, or if identified too late, surgery should be offer when the child is 4 to 5 years old. Usually, it means that the cartilage has to be unfurled, after which it is sutured back into position. Constricted ear deformity can be very severe, in which case the plastic ear surgery becomes more complicated.