Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team from the University of Pretoria have developed a pioneering surgical procedure using 3D-printed middle ear bones, for conductive hearing loss rehabilitation. According to a Pretoria News report, the team successfully performed close to two-hour transplant surgery on their first patient, Thabo Moshiliwa, 40, who damaged his middle ear bone in an injury. The surgery was done at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
The report quotes Tshifularo as saying after the surgery: “I’ve just done a middle ear transplant – the first in the world, pioneering restoring middle ear bones when you have conductive hearing loss. The operation went fantastically well and we are very excited.”
The report says the surgery is the world’s first middle ear transplant using 3D-printed bones. The second surgery will be performed on a patient born with an underdeveloped middle ear, effectively replacing the hammer, anvil, and stirrup -the ossicles that make up the middle ear.
Simon July Bohale, 62, said ahead of the ground-breaking surgery that he has had ear problems all his life. “I’ve gone through two surgeries already, I went to traditional healers but nothing has helped me. I have hearing problems and my right ear pains as well. “I’m very excited and I’m happy that my life will soon change,” he said.
The report says the surgery can be performed on everyone including newborns. It aims to simplify the reconstruction of ossicles during middle ear procedures, such as ossiculoplasty and stapedectomy, in order to increase the chance of success with minimal intrusion trauma. In addition, the procedure reduces the chance of facial nerve paralysis, which can occur if the facial nerve that passes through the middle ear space is damaged during traditional surgery.
The report says MEC for Health Gwen Ramokgopa congratulated and wished the team well, prior to the surgery. “This innovation, the solution for hearing loss, comes as the first in the world, which calls for celebration. We are here to congratulate professor Tshifularo and the team… because they have been working on this for the past 10 years, you have tested it and now you are going to implement it,” she said.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was quick to pay tribute to Tshifularo and his team, reports Pretoria News. The minister urged donors and development partners, especially the business community, to support the innovation which he described as “South Africa’s scientific breakthrough”.
“The Department of Health will do everything in our power to assist and mobilise resources to make sure Professor Tshifularo gets all the help he needs,” Motsoaledi said.
Tshifularo said the procedure posed less risk than others “by replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly”.