Hear this, this man is armed with an ear

Reporters (left) snapping photos of the "ear" (below) growing on the arm of a man in China who lost his right ear in an accident.
Reporters (above) snapping photos of the "ear" growing on the arm of a man in China who lost his right ear in an accident.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY
Reporters (left) snapping photos of the "ear" (below) growing on the arm of a man in China who lost his right ear in an accident.
Reporters snapping photos of the "ear" (above) growing on the arm of a man in China who lost his right ear in an accident.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

XIAN • A Chinese man who lost his right ear in an car accident will soon get a new one that is being "grown" on his right forearm.

The patient, identified only by his surname Ji, suffered extensive injuries to the right side of his face in an accident a year ago.

Doctors managed to save his life but the tissues near the right ear were too badly damaged to allow for traditional reconstruction involving a plastic prosthetic ear, according to Chinese reports.

Hua Shang news website reported yesterday that the patient then sought help from Dr Guo Shuzhong of The First Affiliated Hospital of Xian Jiaotong University.

Dr Guo, who has 33 years of experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, suggested an unusual ear reconstruction method.

He explains that the process involves three phases. Doctors had to first "grow" extra skin on the forearm using skin expansion techniques used in plastic surgery.

After that, small pieces of cartilage are removed from Mr Ji's rib cage to create a three-dimensional form that resembles an ear. This is then placed under the skin flap on his right forearm.

Mr Ji is recovering in hospital after surgery for the second phase. Doctors say he should be able to be discharged in a week.

The final step will be in three to four months' time: transplanting the "ear" onto Mr Ji's head after it has grown to a desirable size.

Seeing the new "ear" growing on his right forearm, Mr Ji broke into a smile. "This is wonderful. It looks just like the real thing," he was quoted as saying .

In 2012, surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, the US, used the same method to successfully grow and transplant a new ear on a 42-year-old woman, reported CBS News. Ms Sherrie Walter had lost one ear to an unusually aggressive form of skin cancer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Hear this, this man is armed with an ear'. Print Edition | Subscribe