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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

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Ear Reconstruction

Ear defects can result from:

  • Congenital hypoplasia (microtia)
  • Trauma
  • Cancer ablation
  • Prominent ears

The ability to reconstruct a partial or total ear defect requires a thorough comprehension of the three-dimensional morphology of the ear. At the Johns Hopkins Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery our physicians employ innovative techniques to provide ear reconstructions that are cosmetically appealing.


Microtia is known to result from incomplete embryonic development with varying degree of severity. Microtia has been reported to occur once in every 6,000 births. Hereditary transmissions of several types of ear anomalies have been reported. Therefore it is important that doctors perform a comprehensive evaluation to detect potential associated anomalies.

Reconstruction of the Ear

There are three different types of ear reconstruction.

  1. Otoplasty (the treatment of prominent ears)
  2. Microtia repair (the treatment of congenitally malformed / missing ears)
  3. Ear defects (from trauma or cancer surgery)

Our surgeons use two different strategies to reconstruct the ear in children (and sometimes adults) with microtia. For many patients, the new ear is created from patients’ own tissue (autologous). Cartilage from the rib cage is used.

In some cases, the parents or patient prefer to have an artificial ear created by our artist who specializes in this difficult art.

Working together with world-class otologists at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, our physicians ensure hearing rehabilitation is also maximized.

Consultation for Ear Reconstruction: What to Expect

The initial consultation of total ear reconstruction with an ear reconstruction specialist can occur as early as the first year of life in microtia cases. During this visit you can expect:

  1. A thorough history and examination
  2. Audiologic testing
  3. Discussion on options for ear surgery, including reconstruction with autologous tissue as well as prostheses.

Understanding the Otoplasty Surgery

Following is a general description of the way ear reconstruction is performed by our expert facial cosmetic surgeons. Remember each patient’s individual needs and features are considered before your surgery. 

Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head.

  1. The surgeon will then remove the necessary amounts of cartilage and skin required to achieve the right effect.
  2. In some cases, the surgeon will trim the cartilage, shaping it into a more desirable form and then pin the cartilage back with permanent sutures to secure the cartilage.
  3. In other instances, the surgeon will not remove any cartilage at all and instead use stitches to hold the cartilage permanently in place.
  4. After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, the surgeon will apply sutures to anchor the ear to hold the ear in the desired position until healing occurs.

What to Expect After Otoplasty Surgery

Note:  These are general guidelines. Please ask your doctor to fully explain what your expectation should be post surgery.

  1. Soft dressings applied to the ears will remain for a few days. Most patients experience some mild discomfort.
  2. If you are accustomed to sleeping on your side, your sleep patterns may be disrupted for a week or so because you cannot put any pressure on the ear areas. Headbands are sometimes recommended to hold the ears in the desired position for two weeks after the surgery.
  3. The risks are minimal. There will be a thin white scar behind the ear after healing. Because this scar is in a natural crease behind the ear, the problem of visibility is inconsequential.

Follow-up Care

Follow-up care is vital for this procedure to monitor healing. Obviously, anything unusual should be reported to your surgeon immediately. It is essential that you keep your follow-up appointments with your surgeon. 

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment or to get more information about the Johns Hopkins Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, please call 877-546-4530.