Microtia Causes and Children
While Microtia causes are unknown, there is some genetic link. The chances of having a child born with microtia are higher if there is microtia in the immediate family of one of the parents. However, we see fewer than 15% of the cases have a family history of the condition.
Most children are unaware of microtia as a problem until they become school aged. Some children do identify the "little ear" earlier around age 3, when they see themselves in photos or in a mirror and begin to compare their ears.
Parents generally don't explain microtia to a child until the child himself notices the problem. Parents should just say that the child was "born that way" or "a doctor can fix it". These short, simple explanations can go a long way in relieving a child's anxiety about their little ear. Forcing the child to cover up the "little ear" will also make them more self-conscious and insecure.
Timing the Surgery
The ideal age for children to have microtia surgery depends on several factors including growth of the ears, growth of the rib cage and psychological preparedness for surgery, but generally the best age is 5 or 6 (see What Actually Happens During Microtia Surgery).
I need to use the child's own rib cartilage to construct the ear and usually children need to weigh at least 40 pounds to ensure that the rib cartilage is developed enough to safely extract a small piece.
When a child reaches the age of 5, ears are generally 85%-90% of their full size, this allows us to construct an ear so it can be sized close to a full grown ear. The only exception to this would be is if the microtia occurs in both ears. In those cases, we tend to operate at a younger age because studies have shown that impaired hearing in both ears may hinder brain development.
Stages of Surgery
If a child wants to have the surgery, the preparation, the stages of the surgery and the post-operative care all become much easier for everyone involved. The four stages of surgery can take up to 9 months to complete. The older the child, the more chance they are interested in having the surgery and will be cooperative and stoic during the long process. If the child doesn't consent to the surgery, at 5 or 6, it's best to wait until they are emotionally ready and willing to undertake the process.
Finally, completing the surgery before the child enters first grade keeps the child from missing too much school due to the multiple surgeries and recovery periods. Also by taking care of the ear early, there is less chance of schoolyard taunts and teasing adversely affecting the child.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mark Mitchell Jones for you or a family member. We look forward to helping you or your child.