A team of South African doctors have pioneered a breakthrough in world medicine, with the first-ever, successful middle-ear transplant.
By Elphas Nkosi
The good news shines like a beacon amidst the negative stories South Africans consume everyday about corruption, Crime, Maladministration and State Looting.
The pioneering surgical procedure uses 3D-printed middle ear bones made of titanium, developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Health. It may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic disease.
The surgery can be performed on anyone, including new-borns. Professor Tshifularo’s innovation restored hearing to a 35 -year-old man whose middle ear was completely damaged in a car accident.
The procedure replaces the hammer, anvil, and stirrup – the smallest bones in the body – that constitute the middle ear.
By replacing only the tiny bones that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures, Professor Tshifularo says.
The tiny, titanium bones are bio compatible and are put in place with an endoscope, with minimal scarring.
The South African Hearing Institute says more than half of all humans will suffer significant hearing loss by age 80.
The new procedure reduces the chance of facial nerve paralysis, a significant danger with traditional surgical methods.
Professor Tshifularo says 3D technology is allowing surgeons to do things they never thought they could. But further development will need sponsors and funding.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says his department will do everything in its power to assist and mobilize resources to ensure the professor gets all the help he needs. Motsoaledi called on donors and development partners, especially in the local business community to support the scientific breakthrough.