Doctor Makes History By Curing Deafness With First-Ever Middle Ear Transplant

A doctor from South Africa just made history by curing deafness with the first-ever middle ear transplant.

Prof Mashudu “Tuks” Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pretoria, just became the first surgeon to perform this groundbreaking surgery, which is expected to cure middle ear problems caused by congenital birth defects, infections, trauma or metabolic diseases. Tshifularo and his team at the Steve Biko Academic hospital in S.A. may have just come up with a better long-term hearing approach than hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Back in March, Tshifularo performed a successful reconstructive surgery on a 35-year-old male patient whose middle ear structure was shattered in an accident. During the procedure, Tshifularo successfully replaced the damaged middle ear ossicles using 3D-printed bones.

The ossicles are the three microscopic bones in the middle of the ear that transmit sounds and vibrations from atmosphere to the inner ear. When the ossicles are damaged, they can result in a loss of hearing, of which the severity will depend on the degree of damage incurred.

“By replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures,” said Tshifularo. “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.”

The surgery is particularly groundbreaking because it can be performed on anyone, ranging from newborns to aged adults. The procedure has already found to be safer than similar surgeries that have been put forth in the past few years, as it has a lower risk to facial nerve paralysis, which is one of the dangers of ear surgeries. Tshifularo is just hoping that the procedure will be more easily accessible to patients in the coming years.

“Because we are doing it in the country and we are going to manufacture here, it has to be affordable for our people in state hospitals,” he said. “It will be very accessible because as long as we can train the young doctors to be able to do this operation, then it will be accessible for them as well.”

When asked about the first patient he performed the surgery on, Tshifularo said, “This was one of our patients we have been waiting for, for this reconstruction for almost three years now because they are not affordable … [but] we have done something new in the world and people will remember us for that.”

Find out more in the video below.

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