Boy Gets New Ears Made From His Ribs

British 9-year-old had microtia of both ears
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2014 4:09 PM CDT

(Newser) – An operation in London has given 9-year-old Kieran Sorkin a pair of ears—made from his ribs, no less. Born deaf with no ears, Kieran was able to hear because of an implanted hearing aid, but he still wanted ears. "I want people to stop asking me questions," he told the BBC. "I'd like just to look like my friends. I'd also like to be able to wear sunglasses and earphones." So surgeons traced an outline of Kieran's mom's ears, removed cartilage from the boy's ribs, and sliced, contoured, and sewed the cartilage. Then they put it in two skin pockets and vacuumed them into the shape of ears.

They don't perform any function, but Kieran's plastic surgeon says they can deliver a huge confidence boost: "If you can change the confidence of a patient at this young age, you can change their whole trajectory in life," he said. The ears should last, too, because they're made of cartilage rather than prosthetics, the Guardian reports. Every year about 100 British newborns lack one or both ears (it's called microtia), and the hospital Kieran went to performs the operation about 40 times a year. Scientists hope to one day make ears from the fat tissue of patients, instead of ribs. Kieran might have liked that, since he got so excited on seeing his new ears that he cried "Wow!" and giggled—which made his ribs hurt from the operation. (Click to read about a man who needed surgery to remove a tooth growing in his nose.)

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