Treating Unilateral and Bilateral Microtia: What You Should Know By Dr. John Reinisch on December 31, 2023

parents playing with their childMicrotia is a rare genetic condition that causes deformity of the outer ear in which the ear may appear small or malformed. In severe cases, microtia affects the inner ear as well and results in hearing loss and speech impediments. Microtia may be unilateral (affecting one ear) or bilateral (affecting both ears).

At his Beverly Hills, CA, plastic surgery center, microtia specialist Dr. John Reinisch offers microtia treatment to reconstruct the ear, boost self-confidence, and address any hearing loss related to the condition. Here, Dr. Reinisch provides an overview of what you should know about treating unilateral and bilateral microtia.

Is Treatment the Same for Unilateral and Bilateral Microtia?

For most people with microtia, the condition is unilateral, affecting only one ear. However, in approximately 10 percent of cases, the condition is bilateral, affecting both ears. Whether microtia is unilateral or bilateral, patients can consider the same treatment options. 

What Are My Treatment Options?

Dr. Reinisch offers two primary treatment options for microtia at his Beverly Hills plastic surgery center: MEDPOR® ear reconstruction and rib cartilage reconstruction.

  • MEDPOR ear reconstruction - MEDPOR ear reconstruction is a technique created by Dr. Reinisch to address the limitations of rib cartilage reconstruction. During a MEDPOR ear reconstruction procedure, Dr. Reinisch places a porous polyethylene implant that matches the patient’s healthy ear (or resembles a healthy ear). The implant is covered by the patient’s tissues. Once the implant is in place, the patient’s cells and blood vessels can integrate with the porous, biocompatible material.
  • Rib cartilage reconstruction - Dr. Reinisch prefers not to utilize the traditional rib cartilage reconstruction technique for microtia treatment, but it may be recommended in some cases. For rib cartilage reconstruction, patients must undergo at least two surgical procedures. During the first procedure, Dr. Reinisch harvests rib cartilage. During the second procedure, Dr. Reinisch uses rib cartilage to reconstruct the ear.

At What Age Can a Child Undergo Microtia Treatment?

The age at which a child can undergo microtia treatment depends on the surgical technique. Rib cartilage reconstruction is a complex procedure that involves an uncomfortable recovery. Furthermore, rib cartilage can only be collected once a child has enough rib growth to support the fabrication of the ear framework. Usually, rib cartilage ear reconstruction is delayed until patients are eight to 10 years old.

One of the benefits of MEDPOR ear reconstruction is that it can be performed much earlier than rib cartilage reconstruction. Because this technique does not use the patient’s cartilage, treatment can be performed when a child is as young as three.

Can Both Ears Be Treated at Once if My Child Has Bilateral Microtia?

Patients with bilateral microtia may require more procedures than those with unilateral microtia, but it again depends on the treatment technique. MEDPOR ear reconstruction can generally be performed on both ears simultaneously. However, when undergoing rib cartilage ear reconstruction, patients with bilateral microtia require at least three surgical procedures because rib cartilage cannot be harvested for both ears at once. Surgeries for rib graft collection are usually spaced four to six weeks apart.

Contact Us

Microtia treatment restores the ear shape and addresses hearing loss so children can live comfortably and confidently. If your child suffers from unilateral or bilateral microtia and you want more information on the treatment options offered by Dr. John Reinisch, contact our Beverly Hills plastic surgery center and request an appointment.

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Dr. John Reinisch, MD

Reinisch Plastic Surgery

  • Exceptionally well-qualified
  • Graduate of Harvard Medical School
  • Board-certification in plastic surgery 
  • Created the MEDPOR® technique in 1991
  • Has successfully treated over 20,000 children 

Patients come from across the country and around the world to benefit from his expert care. To schedule your consultation, contact our office online or call us at (833) 896-3277

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