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Non-Surgical Correction of Outer-ear Anomalies in Newborns at Rambam

Publication Date: 7/13/2023 11:00 AM

About thirty percent of newborns are born with outer ear anomalies that go undetected during pregnancy. Some of these are temporary and resolve as the child gets older, but others need medical intervention – surgical and non-surgical. Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, offers a highly successful non-surgical intervention.

Photo: Sima Ben Shitrit explains the procedure to a parent Photography: Rambam HCCPhoto: Sima Ben Shitrit explains the procedure to a parent Photography: Rambam HCC

Professor Assaf Zeltzer, director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rambam, explains, “In the neo-natal period, approximately the first ten weeks after birth, high levels of maternal hormones are present in the infant’s blood. During this time the ear cartilage is flexible. This provides a window of opportunity allowing us to reshape the outer ear by placing a custom-made ear mold at the site of the problem.” Over several weeks, with adjustments, the mold gradually reshapes the ear. The timing is extremely important since, if the surgeons miss this window of opportunity, surgical correction is the only solution, but only when the child is at least six years old.

Amit Bismuth (34), from a town north of Haifa, recalls, “Shortly after our daughter Melo was born, my wife Sophie and I, noticed an unusual fold on each of her ears. After an internet search, I discovered this is quite a common anomaly. We didn’t want Melo to be affected by this – not aesthetically, socially, nor emotionally. After seeking immediate medical advice, we were referred to the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rambam.

Rambam has been performing ear molding, the non-surgical correction of auricular (outer ear) deformities in newborns, for over twenty years. “Following a medical examination, our specialist physicians determine the best treatment and a treatment coordinator is assigned to each case. Throughout the treatment, the coordinator accompanies the family,” explains Professor Zeltzer.

Sima Ben Shitrit, treatment coordinator, explained that during the non-surgical procedure offered at Rambam, a customized mold of the infant’s ear is ‘glued’ to the auricle.

Bismuth adds, “While treatment is often expensive, we realized time was of the essence and we needed to act fast. Eight days after Melo’s birth, the non-surgical correction commenced at Rambam. It was a simple and gentle procedure that did not bother her. The mold was attached to Melo’s ear and was hardly noticeable. My wife and I had to remove the mold before bath time, and once we got used to it, it was not difficult. Over time, the mold required adjustments, but we noticed an improvement in her condition and are delighted with the results.”

With easy access to the Internet on every topic possible, parents are far more aware of the implications of conditions of these types. After their child is born they immediately search for solutions via websites, chat groups, and in-person consultations. Once the probable issue is discovered, they seek the appropriate medical facility. Ben Shitrit points out, “That is when they turn to us. Because parents are responsible for the home care that follows, their cooperation is key to an optimal result." Reflecting on her life’s work, Ben Shitrit concludes, "I am overjoyed to be part of a child’s physical development and emotional wellbeing."

“I must admit that initially my wife and I were doubtful,” recalls Bismuth, “but now that we see the improvement, we recommend the treatment.”

The Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rambam Health Care Campus treats adults and children and specializes in reconstructive surgery for congenital anomalies, trauma cases, and elective aesthetic procedures.

(L-R) Melo’s ear before, during and after the procedure. Photography: Rambam HCC

The Bismuth family Photography: Courtesy of the Bismuth Family