How doctors are making life-like facial prosthetics

Borrowing from special effects techniques used in the movies, facial prosthetics are now virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Meet one man who lost his ear to cancer, but you'd never know it by looking at him.

Whether he’s playing hockey or flying high, Henry Fiorentini lives an active lifestyle.

But a few years ago, a very common form of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma - almost took his life.

"It's like, wow, there it is on a direct path to your brain,” Henry said. “Good bye life. It's kind of scary to say the least."

The cancer started on his right ear…henry lost his hearing and his ear. Despite multiple surgeries, the cancer remained - along with a mass of scar tissue.

Doctor Sam Marzo says Henry risked paralysis if his facial nerve was cut. But Marzo successfully removed the cancer and - thanks to advances in prosthetics - you'd never know what Henry had been through.

“Nobody else in the country really wanted to do this surgery,” Marzo said. “If you think about the special effects industry in movies, those kind of materials are now available for patients."

Henry's ear is made of silicone, making it easily removable.

From birthmarks to blood vessels - his ear looks just like the other.

“Let me tell you, nobody can tell that this is a false ear," Henry said.

It’s a false ear that's made a real impression on Henry.

The silicone prosthetic ears last from three to five years.

Marzo says 3D printers and scanners are on the horizon to quickly create an exact mirror image prosthetic when the ears need to be replaced.


TOPIC: Just Like the Real Thing: A New Ear for Henry
REPORT: 3811

EAR DEFORMITY: Ear deformities don't only occur at birth but can also be acquired through an accident or trauma. Some have ears too large (protruding) or a part is folded in (constricted) and some have a deformity in the ear canal itself. A common ear condition in children is that of microtia which happens at birth and keeps the ear from developing the correct way. What the child is left with is an ear that's like a flower bud that hasn't yet bloomed. Microtia occurs in about one out of every 6,000 births and occurs in both of the child's ears in 20 percent of the cases. (Source:
EAR TUMORS: There are three main cancerous tumors that require surgery on the ear. Ear canal cancer causes the canal, eardrum and hearing bones to all be removed. Complete hearing loss takes place. A glomus tumor is a benign tumor that forms behind the ear drum and can cause damage to the function of the ear and face and if left untreated, could travel to the brain. Acoustic neuroma is a type of ear tumor that forms in the canal between the ear and the brain. If the tumor is small enough, hearing can sometimes be preserved in this procedure. (Source:
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Prosthetic limbs have been around for years but now doctors are providing prosthetic ears to children and adults that have malformed ears or have lost them due to infection or disease. Ears that have been lost to ear cancers can now be replaced with replicas that look like real ears. The prosthetics are made of light silicone that give them a soft rubbery feeling similar to a real ear and also manage to replicate the blood vessels and skin tone exactly like the person's other ear. Greg Goin at Medical Arts Prosthetics in Wisconsin has made a prosthesis which can be easily removed and put back on via three tiny magnets. This technology is giving people with deformed or missing ears hope. Doctors and patients alike are calling the new prosthetic ears virtually undetectable to the average person and a dream come true. (Source:

Jim Ritter
Media Relations
Loyola University Medical Center

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