Technology has come a long way over time and the field of medicine is a primary recipient of benefits from modern innovations. The conception of 3D printing has made it possible to transform digital models into physical objects by joining layers of material together. Last month, Professor Mashudu “Tuks” Tshifularo from South Africa utilized 3D printing to reconstruct broken bones in the middle of a patient’s ear and performed the first ever successful middle-ear transplant. In doing so, he may have discovered a better long term approach to hearing than cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Professor Mashudu Tshifularo has been studying conductive hearing loss for over a decade now, as well as researching the use of 3D printing to scan and rebuild damaged bones in the ear for the past two years. He will be honored as the first surgeon to cure deafness using a middle-ear based surgical procedure.
“By replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures,” says Prof 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 said to be effective in curing middle-ear problems caused by various factors including infections, trauma, metabolic disease and congenital birth defects. A remarkable advantage of the procedure is that it can be performed on anyone — from newborn babies to adults.
Professor Mashudu Tshifularo is placing an emphasis on accessibility and affordability of the procedure and calls are being made on donors and development partners in the South African business community to invest in this revolutionary breakthrough.