Army Doctors Transplant New Ear From Soldier's Arm

Henrietta Strickland
May 12, 2018

Burrage sustained compression fractures in her spine, road rash, and a missing left ear. Afterward, when she woke up in the hospital, she wasn't whole. Her ear canal had healed over after the ear was lost.

The surgery was over a year in the making for the 21-year-old.

What Johnson and the other surgeons at the medical center proposed - growing an ear in her forearm and then transplanting it - shocked her.

No prosthetics were needed. Surgeons removed cartilage from her rib and carved a new ear.

Social media users have been actively debating the news. The US army reported the success of the operation in a public statement on Monday, adding that Burrage is now en-route to recovery.

"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", she said.

In 2016, Burrage had been driving from MS to Texas when the front tires of her vehicle blew out, causing the auto to skid and flip. Fortunately, her pregnant cousin, who was in the passenger seat during the crash, managed to escape with minor injuries.

"I was on the ground, I just looked up and [her cousin] was right there".

Doctors later told her that if she hadn't received medical attention after 30 more minutes, she would have bled to death.

Army Doctors Transplant New Ear From Soldier's Arm
Army Doctors Transplant New Ear From Soldier's Arm

"I didn't feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery", Pvt. "I just remember the first flip and that was it". "I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear", said Burrage.

The surgery is hailed as "the first of its kind".

In the 1990s, an alarming, but real, photo of a mouse with what appeared to be a human ear attached to its back was widely circulated. However, the resounding success of Burrage's surgery means that U.S. army surgeons can now restore and recreate cartilaginous body parts for soldiers in service.

There have also been at least two cases in which doctors performed procedures similar to what Burrage underwent.

A soldier who lost her ear in a 2016 auto accident has a newly transplanted ear that was grown in her own arm, the Army said.

When the option of ear reconstruction was presented to her, Burrage wasn't sure if she wanted to go through with it.

At first, Burrage was hesitant when she learned what that would entail. In addition to the transplant, epidermis from her forearm will be used to cover scar tissue in the area immediately around her left jawline, the statement said.

For Burrage, there are still two more surgeries left, the Army statement said, but she's feeling more optimistic and is excited to finish the procedures.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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