Doctors at the Kumming Medical Hospital grow a 3D printed ear out of the patient’s arm

3D printing has generated hopes for many. Recently a doctor grew a 3D printed ear out of a patient’s arm in China. Mr. Zhang lost one ear and suffered some hearing impairment in a fatal car accident. Dr. Wang Jihua is the director of plastic surgery at the Kumming Medical Second Hospital. He gave Mr. Zhang hopes of rebuilding his lost ear. He proposed to grow an ear out of Zhang’s arm. Truly incredible!!

Growing the ear on the patient’s arm was a tricky and experimental process. The patient’s arm was prepared for the process of implantation. A skin expander was embedded into Zhang’s right forearm. The doctors regularly injected water into the arm to expand the volume of the skin. A portion of the patient’s costal cartilage was cut to be used as the material for the ear.

The shape of the ear was 3D printed and the extracted cartilage was molded accordingly. The ear was then planted into the patient’s hand. Thereafter, using the techniques of the microsurgical vascular anastomosis, the ear will grow out of the hand, after which the doctors will remove and transplant it onto the patient’s head.

This whole project was inspired by Professor Guo Shuzhong from the Xi’an Jiaotong University, who performed world’s first ear reconstruction surgery. Dr.Wang said that the two cases were very similar. The team led by Dr. Guo has completed over 300 cases of microtia deformity auricular reconstruction surgery in the last ten ears. Under professor Guo’s technical guidance, we decided to carry out the operation.
The operation is currently in its second stage, and the doctors are waiting for the ear to grow out of the arm properly. It is estimated that it would take about 3 months before the doctors can implant the ear in its right position.

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