South African professor makes history, performs world's 1st 3D inner-ear surgery!

Meet Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at the Steve Biko Academic hospital who has just performed the world’s first middle ear transplant using 3D printed bones.


Pretoria, South Africa – Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria performed the world’s first middle-ear surgery using 3D technology!

They effectively replaced the hammer, anvil, stirrup and the ossicles that make up the middle ear. The surgery, which can be performed on everyone including newborns, has benefitted two patients already. The 3D-printing technology is used to print these bones, and is also used in surgery to reconstruct the ossicles.

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

According to the South African Hearing Institute, our hearing ability naturally declines from age 30 or 40. In fact, by age 80, more than half of humans will suffer from significant hearing loss. While hearing loss is a natural part of ageing, it could also occur as a result of disease or infection. It may also be inherited or be the result of physical damage to the ears or head.

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.

Prof Tshifularo is the Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat studies, ENT) at the University of Pretoria (UP), and is widely recognised as one of the best ENT specialists in the country. His leadership has significantly contributed to the advancement and transformation of the Department.

Prof Tshifularo is originally from Venda in Limpopo and is also a pastor who runs his church.

“Since joining the Department, Prof Tshifularo has been the driving force behind many firsts at the University of Pretoria. In November 2008, for example, he performed a bloodless operation known as an endoscope-assisted tonsillectomy using a technique that he had developed himself. At the time it was believed to be the first operation of its kind in the world.

At around the same time, the Department initiated the Steve Biko Robert Kerr Cochlear Implants Project, a project that does cochlear implants on patients from poor communities, with Prof Tshifularo as the surgical team leader. This project has been a great success and has introduced many financially and socially disadvantaged hearing-impaired people to the world of sound.

As an extension of this project, Prof Tshifularo and his team are in the process of initiating an early childhood hearing rehabilitation and deafness foundation that will serve previously disadvantaged children in the country.”

Prof Tshifularo has also been at the forefront of transformation in South Africa’s medical profession. He was the first black ENT specialist and among the youngest in the country when he was appointed to the Medunsa Department of Otorhinolaryngology in 2001. As an academic professor at UP, he brought transformation to the postgraduate training of registrars and consultants by training black students and using black consultants – something that had not previously been done in the Department.

To date, he has been instrumental in the training of more black South African ENT specialists than any other institution in the country.

His dedication to the training of students from previously disadvantaged groups has led to many ‘firsts’ in the Department’s graduating classes. These include the first South African College of Medicine candidates, the first black male, the first Indian male, the first coloured female and the first black female graduates as Fellows of the College of Surgeons (FCS)/MMed specialists. April 2014 saw three black MMed specialists graduating from UP’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology – the first time this happened since the inception of the Department.

Prof Tshifularo says that he believes that ‘innovate or perish’ are words to live by when it comes to clinical procedures, teaching, research and medical devices. He feels that academic professors have a responsibility to come up with solutions that benefit the communities around them. His belief in this is evidenced by the fact that he has designed and patented several medical devices and procedures that are widely used in the field of ENT today.

“Our future is in innovation towards excellent, internationally recognised solutions. Our aims are to improve safety and efficiency and to reduce costs in our communities as the field of ENT progresses,” says Prof Tshifularo.

Watch the incredible video below:

Sources: University of Pretoria | Gauteng Health Department 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.


  1. Wow how does one get referral there I’m in need of that operation and since I was entitled to resign as a nurse due to may hearing deficit and after not hearing aid got damaged life was difficult and im currently unemployed and hat to but 3 hearing aids with my pension fund from a private practice which is costly having to buy batteries.I should think that operation can save me and help my life get back on track and be able to work again

  2. This is a proof that through God everything is possible. A black African man demonstrates that a black man is mentally rich and his innovation capacity through research and development can surpass that of a child from a well developed country.

  3. I want to ask if the Dr. comes to the United States to do this wonderful surgery for kids? My granddaughter is deaf in her right ear due to physical abuse from her mom. Please let me know how I can reach him and talk to him about her condition, you can contact me at my email. Thanks so much! Ms. Sharon Diene

  4. Hi. i am a teacher and have a severe to profound hearing loss. can i make an appointment to see the Professor. I am from Durban. or does he do procedures in Durban? i have GEMS medical aid. please let me know asap. O846475905.

  5. Hello, I am from Trinidad and did surgery nine months ago, cannot hear anything on my left ear and my hearing on the right side is getting worse daily.
    It has been very challenging to lead a normal life with this hearing loss. Is there any way that you would make a trip to Trinidad.

  6. Hello, I would like him to help my hearing. So I can go back to work at the hospital, understand when people r talking in groups or hear the words correctly. I’m so frustrated with my life that I’m left out of not hearing anything what people saying. I’m not deaf but hard of hearing by accident. Please help me cause I feel like not living anymore. Been to so many DR. With no help. I’m begging u to help me. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️

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