Doctors Grow Replacement Ear Inside Patient’s Arm

Doctors Grow Replacement Ear Inside Patient's Arm

US Army soldier Shamika Burrage has a different left ear. Like your right ear, it is made of your own cells and connected by blood vessels. You can hear very well through it, and feel it perfectly when you touch it. The interesting thing is that until a few days ago this ear was not attached to his head, but to his arm. The story was picked up by LiveScience.

Burrage lost her ear during a car crash in Texas, USA, in 2016. Today, she is the new beneficiary of a cosmetic reconstruction procedure called in English prelaminated free flap surgery for atrial reconstruction ( prelaminated forearm free flap surgery ). The operation, which sounds like science fiction, consists of growing new tissues by implanting cartilage under the skin of the forearm.

It is true that many people have already been subjected to this experiment successfully (you can read the documentation of a success story published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine ) but Burrage is the first American soldier to receive this type of reconstruction. according to an army press release.

The goal is that by the end of the procedure, the ear looks and feels so good that in five years no one will realize what happened there, said Lt. Owen Johnson III, chief of plastic surgery at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, who was in charge of the intervention.

How is it possible?

First, surgeons create a cast of a prosthetic ear by growing some of the patient’s cartilage, usually from their ribs. The cartilage receives shape, sometimes with the help of a 3D printed mold, and is then inserted under a flap of free skin and cut into the forearm of the person. In other variants of this surgery, patients grow cartilages in the form of a nose under the nape of the neck, to redo their noses.

As the cartilage is molded from the same cells of the arm tissue, the skin will grow around the mold. In turn, new blood vessels arise within the transplanted tissue and after several months of recovery, the new ear can be transplanted safely to the head. Burrage’s case was special since additional skin tissue had to be used to coat scar tissue around his jaw.

According to Johnson, the ear has fresh arteries and veins and healthy nerves, so that Burrage is fully capable of feeling it and of course listening through it, while the surgeons were able to reopen a channel after the trauma of their hearing. accident.  

Other cases

In 2017, a team of Chinese surgeons completed a similar surgery on a man who lost his partner during a traffic accident. The leader of the medical team told the Daily Mail that these types of surgeries are performed on about 500 children each year. Not all incubators are human: in 1995, a mouse called the mouse ear was the first to grow a human ear using transplanted cartilage, at the Medical School of the University of Massachusetts.