While most people have heard of cleft lips and palates, fewer of us ever have heard of microtia (pronounced my-krO-sha). This is a congenital condition in which a child is born with an ear too small and deformed to be characterized as normal. Thankfully, it most often affects only one side of a newborn baby, and the normal side will allow the child to develop a normal sense of hearing. Still, growing up without a normal-appearing ear is often a challenge not only for the child, but also for the parents. Children with this condition are often the subject of teasing and ridicule. Also, since cutting off of ears and noses in some cultures has been used as a punishment in the past, there’s great stigma for individuals with missing ears.
Surgery for this condition involves either creating an ear cartilage shaped from the patient’s own rib cartilage, or using an ear-shaped plastic framework. Either way, flaps created from the scalp tissues and skin graft from the patient’s body are then needed to cover the framework with skin that will allow it to appear more normal. These are intricate operations done by experienced plastic surgeons. Typically, this procedure is done when the child’s ear is near its adult size (between the ages of 7 and 10), though this varies of course with each case.
Syndactyly Reconstruction & Amniotic Band Syndrome
These are conditions in which the fingers show abnormalities involving either fusing of the fingers together, or webbing of the space between fingers. This limits the child’s ability to develop full hand function, and for this reason, it is considered important to address this condition surgically before a child’s manual dexterity develops. This usually occurs in the second year of life, and therefore, the ideal time for a repair is around 18 months (that’s when the hand is large enough and child usually healthy enough for this meticulous operation), and yet before the full development of fine motor skills in the hands is complete. Most children with syndactyly (webbing and fusion of the fingers and toes), have normal intelligence, and when properly treated, grow up with manual skills that rival any other individual.
Soft tissue tumors
It is often on these medical missions that we are asked to evaluate patients with various soft tissue tumors. Tumors are “growths” that can occur in any part of the body. These growths or tumors are not always “cancerous” and often are benign. There are too many types of soft tissue tumors to list, but it is important to understand the origin of a particular tumor that may be presenting.
Biopsy of these tumors is not easily performed in these remote locations due to the lack of adequate diagnostic pathologists who can accurately evaluate these tumors. Performing imaging studies of these tumors can be expensive and often impossible because of lack of proper imaging equipment that is required to study these tumors.
Surgical removal of these tumors is often required to help these patients. This can be very challenging as well. Soft tissue tumors can exist in various parts of the body and come in many sizes. They often are spectacularly large, but can also be small tumors located in a very precarious location on the body. It is unfortunately not true that the smaller the tumor, easier the resection. Often times, the bigger tumors are the easier ones to remove, but the challenge is often having the right equipment to perform these surgeries.
The Destination: Hope team follows the strictest guidelines set based on our own standard of care in treating these patients. We always perform these surgeries with strict regard to patient’s safety to assure the best outcome.