By Rebecca Moragne, TuftScope Research-Highlights Editor
The idea of a nonsurgical treatment to correct congenital ear malformations in infants is not new; however, a report this month revealed the huge extent of this treatment’s success (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2017). 6 to 45% of newborns are born with a congenital ear malformation and many remain uncorrected or require surgery later on due to the misconception that the malformations will self-correct (Low & Bartlett, 2015). EarWell is a procedure that ideally begins within three weeks after a child is born and reshapes the ear by using an infant’s flexible and adaptive ear cartilage. The study, published in the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, analyzed the procedure in 303 infant ears. The infants were treated for 37 days with six follow-up visits. 97% of infants with one deformity and 88% of infants with multiple deformities achieved “good” to “excellent” deformity reductions and corrections. 70% of infants were effectively left with no ear malformations (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2017). The study’s results provided strong outcomes to support EarWell use in all infants with congenital ear malformations. While there were complications, they were limited to allergic reactions on the skin from the EarWell’s adhesive tape (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2017).
In order for infants to be treated through EarWell, awareness of the procedure’s success is required. Dr. Byrd and the study’s co-authors stated, “The opportunity for early treatment can be hampered by a failure to convince pediatricians that the majority of misshapen newborn ears do not self-correct” (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2017). Physicians need to realize that instead of hoping for self-treatment, early intervention is essential. The early success of a nonsurgical procedure is what distinguishes EarWell from other treatment options. By pursuing a nonsurgical intervention early in a child’s life, future surgery can be avoided. And by circumventing surgery, the malformation is not only corrected earlier, preventing further impairment, pain and treatment costs are significantly reduced. Dr. Rod J. Rohrich stated, “While we can operate on ears later in the patient’s life, waiting not only increases the surgery’s difficulty and expense, but may expose the child to teasing, bullying, and loss of self-esteem” (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2017). The risk of bullying only adds to potential benefits of an early correction through EarWell. As the results of the study spreads and physicians acknowledge the negatives that are attached with no corrections of the malformations, hopefully implementation of the procedure will increase.
Low, D. W. & Bartlett, S. P. (2015). Ear deformities. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Retrieved from http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/ear-deformities
Wolters Kluwer Health. (2017, February 28). Nonsurgical treatment can correct congenital ear malformations in infants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170228131104.htm