Since the invention of the 3D printing machine, its applications in the field of biomedical engineering have seemed limitless. In recent years, interest has turned to the use of 3D printing to produce “bionic organs” that would revolutionize the way we approach transplant surgery and traumatic injuries. Thanks to a team of scientists at Princeton University, this vision may quickly become a reality.
Using standard 3D printing technology, the scientists recently created a functional bionic ear that can “hear” frequencies similarly and perhaps better than the capabilities of a normal human ear. The ear was synthesized using human cartilage cells to create a basic framework and electronic nanoparticles to create an antenna for hearing. A remarkable engineering feat, the bionic ear could offer incredible potential to children born with microtia (a congenital ear deformity) as well as victims of traumatic injury requiring ear reconstruction.
Because of the highly complex topology of the ear and its importance aesthetically as well as functionally, ear reconstruction remains one of the most difficult procedures in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery. The Ear Surgery Center of Excellence in Beverly Hills is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the comprehensive treatment of ear injury and congenital deformities, including microtia. Led by renowned facial plastic surgeon Carlo Honrado, MD, the Center houses a highly skilled team of otolaryngologists and plastic & reconstructive surgeons trained in the most advanced reconstructive procedures.
To schedule an initial consultation with a Los Angeles ear surgeon, you may contact us at (888) 281-8537 or by filling out our online contact form.
Current Techniques in Ear Reconstruction
Ear reconstruction is a complex, often multi-stage surgery, that is best performed by an experienced facial plastic surgeon. The goal of the procedure is to re-form the ear canal and outer ear to create a balanced, natural-looking appearance in patients who have suffered a traumatic ear injury or who were born with a malformed ear (microtia). Two predominant techniques are used in reconstructive ear surgery: autologous and synthetic reconstruction.
- Autologous reconstruction, also known as the rib cartilage technique, involves using a patient’s own tissues to form a functional and aesthetically balanced ear. While autologous reconstruction yields an ear that “feels” like normal tissue, the procedure requires chest surgery to obtain rib cartilage and must be performed in three to four stages over the course of a year.
- Synthetic reconstruction is a newer and increasingly used technique that uses a synthetic framework (MEDPOR®) wrapped in a skin graft to construct a new ear. Without the need to harvest cartilage and meticulously piece together the outer ear structure, synthetic reconstruction can often be performed in one to two surgeries with a quicker recovery.
Challenges to Bionic Ear Production
Scientists behind the recent 3D printing developments hope that a bionic ear could combine the benefits of autologous and synthetic reconstruction. By using real cartilage cells, the ear would “feel” like part of the body. The electronics built into the bionic ear could then be attached to nerve endings that would register acoustic sounds and restore hearing. Finally, since the bionic ear would be produced by the 3D printer ahead of time, the length of surgery could be substantially reduced. While the bionic ear prototype will require further research and substantial testing, it offers an exciting glance into the future of reconstructive ear surgery.
Contact an Expert Los Angeles Ear Surgeon
At the Ear Surgery Center of Excellence, our goal is to provide high quality, patient-centered care. Our expert otolaryngologists and facial plastic surgeons have trained at some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country and utilize advanced surgical techniques to provide the most natural looking results.
To learn more about ear reconstruction or to schedule your initial consultation with one of our facial plastic surgeons, don’t hesitate to call (888) 281-8537.
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