Microtia surgery and treatment

Ear reconstruction surgery for microtia at the Royal Free Hospital

What is microtia? 

Microtia means ‘small ear’. The term is taken from the Latin for small (micro) and ear (otia) and is applied to anyone who is born with an underdeveloped ear. Children born with microtia have a varying degree of ear malformation. In the most severe form of microtia the ear is completely absent, a condition known as anotia.

Examples of microtia:

Hearing in microtia

The external auditory canal is generally absent in microtia due to incomplete or absent ear structures that are used to pick up sound and vibrations, such as the tympanic membrane. For these reasons, children with microtia have varying degrees of hearing loss (approximately 40%). 

What causes microtia?

There is a rare hereditary pattern for microtia. Studies have shown that in 5% of patients a member of the immediate family has an ear abnormality. Otherwise, all current evidence suggests that many complicated factors lead to Microtia, such as there is an interruption of blood supply to the ear during its development.

Microtia treatment: ear reconstruction surgery and prosthetic ears

There are three treatment options available at the Royal Free Hospital for patients with microtia:

  1. No treatment. In some cases the child and parents may feel that the ear abnormality has no negative effect on social interaction or self-esteem, and treatment may not be needed in these cases.
  2. Prosthetic ears. These generally require the insertion of titanium pins in the bone so they can be attached. If a patient opts for prosthetic ears then it becomes very difficult to have ear reconstruction surgery at a later date.
  3. Ear reconstruction surgery. This is highly specialised surgery offered by few plastic surgeons who specialise in this field. 

Find out more about ear reconstruction surgery in the left hand navigation.