Pinna abnormalities and low-set ears refer to abnormalities in the shape or position of the outer ear (pinna or auricle).
The outer ear or "pinna" forms when the baby is growing in the mother's womb. The growth of this ear part takes place at a time when many other important organs are developing (such as the kidneys). Abnormalities in the shape or position of the pinna may be a sign that the baby also has other related problems.
Common abnormalities include cysts in the pinna or skin tags.
Many children are born with ears that stick out (prominent or protruding ears). Although people may comment on the ear shape, this condition is a variation of normal and is not associated with other disorders.
However, the following problems may be related to medical conditions:
The following common conditions can cause low-set and unusually formed ears:
Rare conditions that can cause low-set and malformed ears include:
In most cases, a health care provider finds pinna abnormalities during the first well-baby exam. This exam is usually performed at the hospital, if that is where the baby is delivered.
The doctor will:
To determine whether the pinna is abnormal, the doctor will take a series of measurements with a tape measure. Other parts of the body will also be measured, including the eyes, hands, and feet.
All newborns should have a hearing test. A child with pinna abnormalities should also have a hearing test. Examinations for any changes in mental development may be performed as the child grows. Genetic testing may also be done.
Generally, no treatment is needed for pinna abnormalities because they do not affect hearing. However, sometimes cosmetic surgery is recommended.
More severe abnormalities may require surgery for appearance or cosmetic reasons, as well as for function. They usually are done in several stages to create and attach a new ear.
Low-set ears; Microtia; "Lop" ear
Haddad J Jr. Congenital malformations. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 630.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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