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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Ear made from rib tissue
It is a challenge to replace missing sections of the ear
A nine-year-old girl born with most of her ear missing has received a new one moulded from part of her own ribcage.

Emma Bayliss, from north-west London, underwent a five hour operation at Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex, a specialist centre for burns and reconstructive surgery.

Doctors extracted cartilage, tissue joining bone to bone, from Emma's ribcage, moulded it onto a frame and attached it to her head.

I used to get teased at school but now I don't - and it feels great

Emma Bayliss
This was then covered with her own skin.

The advantage of using the patient's own cartilage instead of a moulded silicone replacement is that the cartilage implant will feel far more like a normal ear.

Emma told a newspaper: "I used to get teased at school but now I don't - and it feels great.

"I was born with part of my ear missing and part of it tucked over it like an envelope.

"I feel a lot happier with my ear now."

artificial ear
Previously, only silicone replacements were available
Her mum Jacki said the operation had undoubtedly changed her life, as Emma had previously been very self-conscious about the ear and tried to cover it with her hair.

The operation is normally delayed until the child is eight or nine years old to maximise the amount of cartilage which is available to be removed.

Fine chisels are used to sculpt the cartilage into the required shape before it is attached to the head.

Mr David Gault, the reconstructive surgeon who operated on Emma, has carried out more than 200 similar operations.

He said: "Sometimes I feel a little like an artist, except my exhibits aren't in a gallery, they are walking around.

"The effect of these operations can be quite remarkable. You get boys who previously were truants, or who have attention disorders, and when they get their new ear, it's like switching a light on. Everything changes."

The advantages of using the patient's own cartilage, he said, were that if the new ear was slightly damaged in an accident, it was far more likely to repair itself than an ear made out of silicone.

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