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Your Healthy Family: The life changing gift of a new ear

Posted at 5:09 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 19:09:25-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A 5-year-old boy born without a left ear feels "normal" now following a revolutionary reconstruction surgical technique using cadaver tissue on a 3-D ear.

Luca Vacchio, was born with hemifacial microsomia (HFM), a condition that causes underdevelopment or no development of the face, ear and jaw. The latest statistics show HFM affects one in about every four thousand children.

Since Luca is a huge fan of Iron Man who he admires for his great strength, Luca was surprised by a visit from the Marvel character to help celebrate his successful procedure.

Luca's mom, Christa, said that being born without an ear has been emotionally traumatizing for Luca and his physical situation resulted in him feeling "different."

"As new parents, we were very nervous scared for what the future was going to hold for our little Luca, being that he had no left ear," Christa said. "We researched far and wide, and we stumbled upon Dr. Bastidas. And we put our faith and our trust in him, and we could not be happier with the results and the outcome of Luca's surgery."

Dr. Nicholas Bastidas is a pediatric plastic surgeon at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in Queens, New York who has pioneered a new technique that allows him to create an ear out of cadaver rib cartilage using a 3-D printer.

The advantage to his method is that a child is only under anesthesia for about an hour and a half. The patient is also usually able to be discharged after one hour. Dr. Bastidas' method also does not require narcotic pain medication following surgery.

Luca underwent the first stage of his operation which was the placement of the new ear on December 15, 2021, and during a second surgery, coming up in April, Dr. Bastidas will remove the small ear remnant Luca was born with and raise the new ear from Luca's scalp to a position that will allow for the placement of a hearing aid.

The first procedure has already made a huge difference in Luca's confidence. Christa says he is already showing signs of more self-confidence and less shyness. "We don't have to worry much any more about bullying, and other kids, and his own self esteem as he grows up."

Right now, there's not long term data regarding this cutting edge operation, but the results so far are promising. “I think this is going to be the future of all ear reconstruction," Dr. Bastidas said. "I'm sure whether it's for cancer, whether you're born without an ear, whether it's traumatic."

"We're so extremely happy and thankful for you, Dr. Bastidas, for what you've done for Luca," Christa said.

As seen on NBC News4 New York