In 2019, This South African Surgeon Used 3D Printing Technology to Treat Deafness

Mashudu Tshifularo

Prior to 2019, there was no known cure or treatment for deafness around the world.

However, thanks to 3D printing technology and the brilliance of a South African surgeon who doubles as a pastor, the world now has a process to curing hearing disability.

Surgeon, Mashudu Tshifularo, a professor at the University of Pretoria Faculty of Health Sciences and his medical team used the innovative 3D printing technology to replace the damaged bones of a 35-year-old patient, who went deaf after a car accident damaged his inner ear.

The trailblazing surgery took less than two hours and it was performed at Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

Speaking on the surgery, Tshifularo explained that the team created a replica of the anvil, hammer, stirrup, and ossicles, which make up the inner ear, with similarly-shaped titanium pieces produced on a 3D printer. They then successfully transplanted the replacement into the ear.

“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 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,

He added that the technique can be the cure to hearing defects irrespective of the patient’s age.

“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 the difference,” Tshifularo said.

The University of Pretoria in its reaction to the groundbreaking moment explains the procedure “may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases.”

As Tshifularo said, “3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought we could, but I need sponsors and funding for this invention to take off the ground.”

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