South African Surgeons Make History with 3D Printed Ear Implants

South African Surgeons Make History with 3D Printed Ear Implants

South African surgeons successfully performed the world’s first implant of middle-ear bones that used 3D printed components, a research university said.

The technique “may be the answer to conductive hearing loss — a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases,” Pretoria University said in a statement.

The surgery replaced the hammer, anvil and stirrup — the smallest bones in the body, which make up the middle ear — with similarly shaped titanium pieces produced on a 3D printer.

“3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought we could,” said University of Pretoria health faculty Professor Mashudu Tshifularo.

Tshifularo operated on a 35-year-old man at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. The patient’s middle ear was shattered in a car crash.

By replacing only the bones that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than using known implants, Tshifularo said.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi promised to “do everything in our power to assist and mobilize resources … for this far-reaching innovation.”