After having his right ear ripped from his face in a traffic accident, a patient in China is now growing an artificial ear on his arm in a breakthrough procedure.
About a year ago, the patient underwent countless surgeries to restore his facial skin and his cheeks, but still yearned to have his ear back, according to Huanqiu.com.
“I lost one ear. I have always felt that I am not complete,” Ji said, the Daily Mail reported.
After close consideration, Ji sought out an unconventional solution and decided on Guo Shuzhong, a plastic surgeon who works at the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University in the city of Xi’an. The same surgeon performed China’s first face transplant surgery back in 2006, after a patient’s face was disfigured from a bear attack. Through the surgery, the patient received a new cheek, upper lip, nose and eyebrows.
Following a few check-ups with Ji, Guo decided to perform the three-step procedure.
First, a skin expander was inserted under Ji’s right forearm. In the second step, Guo’s team removed cartilage from Ji’s ribs to construct an artificial ear. Once the organ was built, it was successfully implanted in Ji’s forearm. According to the doctor, that second step was considered the biggest hurdle in the procedure.
For the third uncompleted step, the team of doctors plans on moving the artificial ear, once fully grown, to the patient’s head through vascular anastomosis techniques.
Vascular anastomosis techniques involve the connection between blood vessels, such as between arteries (arterio-arterial anastomosis), between veins (veno-venous anastomosis) or between an artery and a vein.
The transplantation is scheduled to take place within three to four months.
The History of Ears Growing on Arms
Despite the abnormality surrounding this unconventional breakthrough surgery, this idea isn’t entirely brand new. In October 2012, CBS News reported that Johns Hopkins University Hospital transplanted a new ear to a woman’s head after losing it to an aggressive form of skin cancer.
In a similar approach, doctors constructed a new ear using pieces of her rib cartilage and implanted the ear in her forearm for four months. The artificial ear was then surgically removed and moved to the head. Once attached to the appropriate blood vessels, the surgeons molded the organ to look like a normal ear. The patient now wears a special hearing aid which lets her hear from her left side.
In 2015, CNN reported that the director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab at Australia’s Curtin University, Stelarc, grew an ear on his forearm.
“The inner forearm was anatomically a good site for the ear construction,” Stelarc said on his website. “The skin is thin and smooth there, and ergonomically locating it on the inner forearm minimizes the inadvertent knocking or scraping of the ear.”
The Australian artist plans on seeking out other surgeries to embed a Wi-Fi connected microphone that will permit people anywhere in the world to listen to what he hears. Stelarc began this process in 1996.