An Army surgeon has managed to grow a human ear on the arm of a soldier and then attach it to the person’s head.
US Army private Shamika Burrage lost her ear in a major car crash a couple years ago, but some incredible work by Army plastic surgeons means the 21-year-old will get her left ear back. And they were able to accomplish this by growing her new ear on her body, using cartilage from Burrage’s ribs to create the shape of the ear and then implanting it on her forearm.
The skin was allowed to grow around this makeshift ear for a few months, allowing it to form new blood vessels and create some feeling in the air so that it would feel as close to a normal air when it was actually transplanted on her head. It took a few surgeries, but everything went according to plan, the US Army said on its blog.
Burrage initially did not want the surgery and was going to opt for a prosthetic ear. However, she thought about it and decided that maybe it was worth a shot. Surgeons, meanwhile, believe that in five years people will not even notice that it is not her original ear.
The surgery took place at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won’t notice,” said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, WBAMC, according to a post on the US Army blog. “As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”
Pvt. Shamika Burrage, who hails from Mississippi, is a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The accident happened in 2016 due to a tire blowout.
“I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas,” Burrage said in the post. “We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it.”
The vehicle flipped several times and threw Burrage. Her cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time, had only minor injuries, while Burrage suffered the devastating head injuries as well as compression fractures to her spine and road rash.
“I was on the ground, I just looked up and (her cousin) was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were okay and then I blacked out,” said Burrage.
“I didn’t want to do (the reconstruction) but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing. I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear,” she added. “I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do.”
The surgeon elected for a prelaminated forearm free flap, which “involved placing the autologous cartilage into the patient’s forearm to allow for neovascularization,” according to the blog post.
“(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it,” the surgeon said.
“I didn’t lose any hearing and (the surgeon) opened the canal back up,” said Burrage.