Back when I was a medical student in probably 1998, I saw the first surgical procedure of many on a little boy who was born without an ear to surgically create an ear for him. During this first component of the procedure, the plastic surgeon made an incision in the boy’s chest and removed a rib. For the next few hours, the surgeon whittled the rib into a few pieces, bent the rib, and stitched the rib pieces together in such a way to mimic the appearance of the cartilage inside your ear. He then made an incision in the boy’s skin where his ear should have been and put the “ear” under the skin and sewed it up. The next probably 6 surgeries were to gradually stitch the skin in such a way that makes the “rib-bone ear” look like a normal ear. I was floored. It was one of the few moments in my life where I wanted to be a surgeon. This guy was a sculptor. A true artist. And this little boy would have a new “ear.” Super, super inspiring.

And now we have 3D printers to replace the archaic, but artistic rib bone to ear procedure. Amazing. Progress. 


3D printed ‘bionic’ ear combines cartilage with an antenna