Prof Mashudu Tshifularo

A pioneering surgical procedure using 3D-printed middle ear
bones, developed by Prof Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of
Pretoria (UP) Faculty of Health Sciences, may be the answer to conductive
hearing loss, caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or
metabolic diseases.

The surgery, which can be performed on everyone including
newborns, has benefitted two patients already, and today (13 March), Prof
Tshifularo performed transplant surgery on a patient born with an
underdeveloped middle ear, effectively replacing the hammer, anvil,
and stirrup. 3D-printing technology was used to print these bones, and
then used in the surgery to reconstruct the ossicles.

“3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought
we could,” says Prof Tshifularo, who is head of the Department of
Otorhinolaryngology at UP.

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

The surgery also 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, Prof Tshifularo’s 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.

Source: University
of Pretoria