Rib cartilage helps restore man’s hearing
In 2015, a man in China, named Mr. Ji, [first name and age withheld to protect his privacy] was in a terrible car crash. The right side of his face was severely damaged. His right ear was torn off.
After several surgeries, most of the injuries to his face were repaired, everything except his ear. The damage had been too severe to allow doctors to repair the ear.
[Without the ear] “I am not complete,” Ji told China News.
Doctors are working to grow human organs and body parts for patients who have either lost, or never had, those parts. One of those parts is the ear. Researchers have been working on this technology since the 1990s, when cow tissue was used to grow an ear on the back of a rat. Now doctors can use the patient’s own body to grow the part. According to Fox News, this is done in a three-step process which requires several months to complete. It was not possible to do this where his ear used to be, because there was too much scar tissue.
First, the skin must be expanded. This is done by putting a skin expander under the skin, and then filling the area with water. In Ji’s case, this was done on his forearm.
Second, cartilage from Ji’s ribs was shaped like an ear. Then it is implanted under the expanded skin, and left to grow for about three months before being transplanted. The ear is adjusted and shaped to look like an ear, and to fit properly.
The third and final stage of this procedure is to attach the new ear to his head. The plastic surgeon who performed the surgery was Dr. Guo Shuzhong, who also did the first face transplant in 2006. According to Guo, the hour-long operation was hard, because they had to position the ear so that it could get enough blood flow to function properly.
Ji’s surgery was successful, and he is expected to make a full recovery. That includes being able to hear out of his new ear.