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Goldenhar Syndrome, also known as Oculo-Auriculo-Vertebral (OAV) spectrum, is a complex congenital condition characterized by anomalies in the development of the eye, ear, and spine. 

It was first described by Maurice Goldenhar in 1952. It presents with a wide range of physical deformities and developmental challenges.


Goldenhar Syndrome is considered rare, with its incidence estimated at 1 in every 3,500 to 25,000 live births. The condition appears to occur more frequently in males than in females and has no known racial or ethnic predilection. Although the majority of cases are sporadic, familial instances have been reported, suggesting a potential genetic component; or at least an epigenetic component.


Despite ongoing and extensive research, the exact cause of Goldenhar Syndrome remains unknown, reflecting the complexity of this anomaly. There may be a genetic as well as an environment component to it. Goldenhar syndrome Disruption in the development of the first and second branchial arches during the embryonic stage is thought to contribute to the anomalies seen in this condition. 

Several risk factors have been proposed, including gestational diabetes, advanced parental age, and exposure to certain medications or substances during pregnancy.

Clinical presentation

Individuals with Goldenhar syndrome typically exhibit several distinctive features, including:

  • Ear Anomalies: ear anomalies range from preauricular skin tags to microtia/atresia. Microtia (underdeveloped ear) often presents with conductive hearing loss.
  • Eye Anomalies: Microphthalmia (abnormally small eyes), epibulbar dermoids (benign growths on the eye), and coloboma (a notch in the eye structures) are common. These anomalies can lead to visual impairments.
  • Spine Anomalies: Scoliosis, hemivertebrae (incomplete development of the vertebrae), and spinal fusion can occur. These can have a negative impact on posture and mobility.
  • Facial Asymmetry: Often, patients with Goldenhar syndrome may present with Hemifacial microsomia (one side of the face is underdeveloped). It affects the mandible (lower jaw), the maxilla (upper jaw or cheekbone) and mouth. This leads to facial asymmetry.

Other findings might include cardiac, renal, and central nervous system anomalies, highlighting the systemic nature of Goldenhar Syndrome.


The diagnosis is often clinical. A comprehensive clinical assessment supported by imaging studies is usually performed. Prenatal ultrasound may detect some features, though many cases are diagnosed postnatally through physical examination and the identification of specific anomalies. 

MRI and CT scans can provide detailed insights into the extent of vertebral, cranial, and facial involvement. 

Genetic counseling may be offered, especially in families with a history of the syndrome, to discuss potential genetic factors and recurrence risks.


Management of Goldenhar Syndrome is multidisciplinary, addressing each aspect of the condition as needed. Treatment plans are highly individualized because patients may present with different degrees of deformities. The focus is on improving function and quality of life. Key interventions include:

  • Patients with unilateral microtia and atresia have conductive hearing loss. Until surgery is performed, we recommend for patients to wear a bone conduction hearing aid on a soft band to help with hearing.
  • Ear reconstruction is usually performed at around 3.5-4.5 years of age. We prefer to use a 3D porous polyethylene ear implant covered by a vascularized temporal parietal fascia flap and full thickness skin grafts.
  • Hearing: at the same time as the ear reconstruction, we can restore hearing by placing a Bone Conduction hearing aid under the scalp.
  • Facial asymmetry: at the same time as the ear reconstruction, we can perform fat grafting to the cheek to correct the asymmetry. Once patients reach skeletal maturity, jaw surgery (orthognatic surgery) can be offered.
  • Eye Surgery: Colobomas or epibulbar dermoids should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. This is crucial
  • Orthodontic and Dental Care:Addressing dental anomalies and jaw alignment can improve eating, speech, and appearance.
  • Psychological Support: Counseling for the child and family supports emotional well-being and coping with the challenges of Goldenhar Syndrome.

Prognosis and Long-term Management

The prognosis for individuals with Goldenhar Syndrome varies, depending on the severity of the anomalies and the success of interventions. Many lead full, active lives, though ongoing medical care is often necessary. Long-term management focuses on monitoring growth and development, addressing new concerns, and providing support for educational and social challenges.

Living with Goldenhar Syndrome

Beyond the physical and medical challenges, Goldenhar Syndrome can have profound psychosocial implications. Individuals may face social stigma, bullying, and emotional distress related to their appearance and disabilities. Building a supportive community, including family, healthcare providers, educators, and peer support groups, is essential for fostering self-esteem, independence, and resilience.


Goldenhar Syndrome is a complex condition requiring a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care. Advances in medical and surgical techniques have significantly improved outcomes, allowing individuals with Goldenhar Syndrome to lead fulfilling lives. Ongoing research into its causes and treatments holds the promise of even better support for those affected by this multifaceted disorder. As with many rare conditions, raising awareness and understanding is key to improving the lives of those with Goldenhar Syndrome and their families, highlighting the importance of community and medical support in navigating the challenges it presents.

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