A team of South African doctors in the capital city Pretoria has been hailed as pioneers in the field of global medicine after performing the first-ever transplant of a patient’s middle ear.
The achievement–which used 3D-printed technology to reconstruct the broken bones of a middle ear–is being celebrated as a long-term solution to conductive hearing loss. What’s more, the surgery can be performed on people of any age, including newborn babies, curing patients of a form of deafness that is caused by physical damage or infection in the middle ear as well as congenital birth defects and metabolic diseases.
The first patient to undergo the procedure was a 35-year-old male who lost his hearing after a car accident devastated his middle ear. Due to the nature of his trauma, the operation lasted about an hour and a half, according to Legit.
The brains behind the medical team at the University of Pretoria’s Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Professor Mashudu Tshifularo, had been studying conductive hearing loss over the past decade, but in the past two years he began investigating the use of 3D printing technologies for the purpose of scanning and wholly recreating the smallest bones, or ossicles, of the middle ear–namely the hammer, anvil and stirrup.
In a celebratory press release issued by the South African Department of Health, Tshifularo is quoted as explaining:
“By replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedure.
We will use titanium for this procedure, which is biocompatible. We use an endoscope to do the replacement, so the transplant is expected to be quick, with minimal scarring.”
Tshifularo told local radio station Jacaranda FM: