Congenital ear abnormalities present an aesthetic and psychosocial concern for pediatric patients and their parents. Diagnosis of external ear deformities is based on clinical examination and is facilitated by an understanding of normal ear anatomy. Ear anomalies can be categorized as malformations or deformations. Malformations are characterized by absent anatomical structures of the ear (or absence of the ear itself), as exemplified by microtia and anotia. Ear deformations are characterized by ear anatomical landmarks that are present but are distorted or abnormal, with Stahl ear, constricted ear, and prominent ear being common presentations. Ear malformations will not improve with growth of the patient and uniformly require surgical intervention to recreate an anatomically typical ear. Although a small percentage of ear deformations can self-resolve, most patients with ear deformations will require nonsurgical or surgical reconstruction to achieve a normal or more aesthetic ear. In recent decades the use of nonsurgical ear splinting or molding has been recognized as a highly effective method in correcting a variety of congenital ear deformations when treatment is initiated in the first 8 weeks of life. The urgency in initiating nonsurgical treatment of ear deformations at an early age makes prompt recognition of these ear deformations essential because surgical correction remains the only viable reconstructive option in older infants and children.
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