Science News

Pin back your ears - breakthrough in aural plastic surgery

Sun, 16th Sep 2007

A UK plastic surgeon has come up with a new way to correct ears that stick out too far.

Norbert Kang, who's based at the Royal Free Hospital in London, became frustrated with traditional surgical techniques for correcting prominent ears because they are time consuming, require a general anaesthetic and have up to a 60% complication rate including scarring and infection. The procedure usually involves stripping the skin from the underlying cartilage and stitching a fold into the back of each ear to keep them "pinned back". Instead, Kang has developed a small twenty-millimetre by five-millimetre metal implant, which is inserted between the skin and the ear cartilage through a tiny incision to bend the ear into the correct shape. It's made from a nickel-titanium alloy, which has a proven safety record because the same material is already used to make angioplasty stents for propping open blocked arteries. This metal also has "shape memory", meaning that it can easily be bent or deformed but springs back to its original position when released, which prevents the ears from being deformed by knocks and scrapes.

According to Kang the implant can be inserted in under ten minutes using just local anaesthetic, which makes the procedure significantly cheaper and safer than existing practices, although it still needs evaluating to prove that it has a satisfactory success rate.

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