It has been almost a year since Professor Mashudu Tshifularo successfully performed a transplant surgery at the University of Pretoria (UP) Faculty of Health in South Africa to cure deafness and since then no European doctor has achieved this feat.
In March 2019, Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and a host of other surgeons at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in South Africa performed a transplant surgery that could lead to the cure of deafness. The team performed a middle ear transplant by reconstructing parts of the ear by using 3D printed middle ear bones, developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team. The surgery was successful and the team was highly optimistic about the patient’s recovery.
The cure discovered by the South African doctor may be the solution to the conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases. The surgery can also be performed on everyone including new-borns.
The success of this transplant made Prof Tshifularo the first surgeon in the world to successfully perform a transplant surgery that allowed a 35-year old male recipient, whose middle ear was totally damaged in a car accident, to hear again.
The procedure effectively replaces the hammer, anvil, and stirrup, the ossicles (the smallest bones in the body) that make up the middle ear. While the 3D-printing technology was used to print these bones, and later used in the surgery to reconstruct the ossicles.
The surgery simplifies the reconstruction of ossicles while the middle ear procedures are on, such as ossiculoplasty and stapedectomy, in order to enhance the chance of success with less intrusion trauma. Furthermore, Prof Tshifularo’s procedure amended the chance of facial nerve paralysis, which occurs if the facial nerve that passes through the middle ear space is affected badly during traditional surgery.
“3D technology is helping us to do things we never imagined we could,” he said.