Quebec doctor develops new eardrum repair method
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, January 16, 2012 5:09PM EST
A doctor in Montreal says he has developed a faster and less expensive technique for treating ruptured eardrums.
Otolaryngologist Dr. Issam Saliba says his new technique can be performed in just 20 minutes during a routine visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Saliba, a researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre affiliated with the Université de Montréal, has already tested the procedure on 400 patients. He says it doesn't matter how large the perforation on the eardrum is; the results of his method are as good as traditional techniques.
Eardrums, technically called tympanic membranes, can become perforated as the result of trauma, such as a hit to the head, a very loud noise, or by introducing a foreign object into the ear canal.
In children, severe ear infections can also lead to ruptured eardrums, when the infection causes pressure inside the ear to perforate the eardrum. The result is typically mild to severe hearing loss in the affected ear.
While most perforated eardrums eventually heal themselves, surgery is needed in some cases.
Dr. Saliba calls his technique HAFGM, for Hyaluronic Acid Fat Graft Myringoplasty. The surgery is performed using a local anesthetic, a compound called hyaluronic acid, a small amount of fat taken from behind the ear to patch the hole.
After the procedure is performed, the eardrum heals itself in about two months.
Saliba says his procedure is much simpler that traditional surgery, which uses a piece of the patient's tissue taken from a muscle sheath to patch the eardrum. The traditional surgery takes two to three hours, requires a general anesthetic and a hospital stay of a day or two.
"We can save more than $1,500 per case," Saliba told a news conference on Monday. "Because we are not using an operating room, the patient is not hospitalized. And when it is done under general anesthetic, there is another fee."
A study of Saliba's technique was recently published in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. The study showed the success rate for the procedure in adults was 92.7 per cent. In children, it was lower, at 85.6 per cent.
Ten-year-old Benjamin Cote was one of the first to get the procedure. He had suffered with a perforated eardrum for six years, never allowed to go swimming and having to be very careful when taking a bath or shower. That all changed after he had the procedure.
"It's much easier to hear my teachers in class," he told CTV Montreal, in French.
His mother, Melanie Fortier, says life after the operation is much easier.
"He has more freedom to things he couldn't do before," she says.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Kevin Gallagher