Surgeons from John Hopkins University grew an ear on a cancer survivor’s forearm with cartilage from her rib cage in what’s been described as the most intricate ear reconstruction in the continent’s history.
“We implanted the ear near the wrist and just let it live there so all the skin could grow,” said Johns Hopkins University Surgeon Patrick Byrne.
Courtesy of John Hopkins
“It seemed a little strange,” Sherrie Walter said of the procedure, “but I was willing to try it.”
Ear reconstruction surgery typically uses skin from the patient’s ear or neck. But Sherrie Walter of Bel Air, Md. had skin cancer – basal-cell carcinoma – that was so pervasive that doctors needed to remove most of her skin in those areas.
Walter, 42, noticed a sore on her left ear in 2010. Her dermatologist diagnosed her with cancer within five minutes of examining her ear. Doctors removed her ear, neck glands, part of her skull and lymph nodes when the cancer spread to her ear canal, reported ABC.
Walter, 42, noticed a sore on her left ear in 2010. Her dermatologist diagnosed her with cancer within five minutes of examining her ear.
A prosthetic ear was not the best option because of Walter’s missing skull bone, so Byrne told Walter about a different innovative procedure: to grow a brand new ear near her wrist.
“It seemed a little strange,” Walter said, “but I was willing to try it.”
Byrne, an associate professor of otolaryngology, implanted cartilage from Walter’s rib cage – as well as skin and arteries from other body parts – under her the skin of her forearm skin in November 2011.
“It was under my arm for about four months… I just thought I was something from science fiction,” Walter said.
The entire endeavor has been described as the most intricate ear reconstruction in the continent’s history.
Walter’s family used humor to cope with her circumstance. When her children would whine, she claims she would show them the ear growing from her wrist and say, “I can’t hear you.”
The doctors detached the growing ear from the arm to attach it to her head in March 2012. Byrne has since been working on matching the new ear cosmetically to her right ear.
Doctors performed the final surgery of the 20-month process on Tuesday, according to The Baltimore Sun. Byrne carved off cartilage to create a canal and stretched skin to shape an earlobe.
The surgeons intend to reveal the finished ear in one week.