SA professor pioneers 3D inner-ear surgery

Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat studies, ENT) at the University of Pretoria who pioneered the world's first middle ear transplant using 3D printed bones can be seen during the procedure at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, 13 March 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat studies, ENT) at the University of Pretoria who pioneered the world's first middle ear transplant using 3D printed bones can be seen during the procedure at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, 13 March 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The pioneering surgical procedure was developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria’s faculty of health.

A groundbreaking operation performed at Steve Biko Academic Hospital yesterday may enable a 40-year-old man to hear better. He became the world’s first patient to receive a 3D-printed middle ear bone.

The pioneering surgical procedure was developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria’s faculty of health.

The procedure is a long-lasting solution to conductive hearing loss and can be performed on anyone, including infants.

Two patients were lined up for the high-tech surgery, with Thabo Moshiliwa being the first to receive the transplant. He had suffered an injury, damaging his middle ear bone, Tshifularo explained.

Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat studies, ENT) at the University of Pretoria who pioneered the world’s first middle ear transplant using 3D printed bones can be seen during the procedure at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, 13 March 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

“We take a scan and recreate the bone.

“The innovation in this idea is to get the same size of the bone, position, shape, weight and length and put it exactly where it needs to be – almost like a hip replacement. The hip replacement inspired me.

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

“We 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 professor said.

The second patient, Simon Bohale, 62, has an underdeveloped middle ear. But his hearing worsened in 1983 after he did a lot of welding.

“I am excited. I’ve had two surgeries before but was not 100% okay. I can’t wait to hear people when they speak to me,” Bohale said.

After 1½-hours in theatre, the surgery on Moshiliwa was declared a success, Tshifularo said.

“The operation was very successful and it was our first.

“The patient was very complicated because he had suffered a trauma [injury].

“The patients will get their hearing back immediately but since they will be wrapped in bandages, only after two weeks, when they are removed, will they be able to tell a difference.

“This will be an affordable procedure, which is why we did it in a state hospital, to help our people.”

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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