NEWS

Doctor says new eardrum perforation treatment will clear long waiting lists

01/16/2012 12:15 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Benjamin Cote is enjoying the everyday sounds of life a lot more since he was treated for a perforated eardrum using a revolutionary technique developed by a Montreal doctor.

"Before, I could hear a woman's voice, which has a high pitch," the 10-year-old boy said on Monday. "But the voice of a man, which has a lower pitch, I had trouble hearing it."

The treatment is being touted by Dr. Issam Saliba of Montreal's Sainte-Justine hospital as a procedure that will help clear long waiting lists.

Cote's mother is relieved and says her son has completely recovered his hearing one year after the eardrum operation.

At one point, she thought the problem was because he had an attention deficit disorder.

"But now I see it clearly," Melanie Fortier said in an interview. "Benjamin, without knowing, was compensating with his right ear.

"You could see him turn his head a little to hear."

Fortier says her son had some tough times in school.

"It was difficult for the teacher to put Benjamin somewhere where he would be certain that Benjamin could hear well," she said.

"He may have missed some information, but I see that today Benjamin is more on top of things (and) he's not missing bits and pieces anymore."

Fortier says in the past her son couldn't even enjoy the local swimming pool because he had to avoid getting water in his ear.

"When he was with his cousins, he was always at the end where there is two or three feet of water," she said. "He couldn't go deeper because the water could get in his ear."

Saliba says his young patient is a brave boy who no longer has to worry about protecting his ear from infection thanks to his eardrum reconstruction technique.

He says his method is just as effective as traditional surgery but far less costly because it can be done at an outpatient clinic in 20 minutes by an ear, nose and throat specialist.

"We can save more than $1,500 per case," Saliba told a news conference.

"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."

Saliba also notes that there's an 18-month waiting list when a general anesthetic is used.

"Under a local anesthetic, we can do it in two months," he added.

He also says the procedure is easier on patients and works well for both children and adults.

Saliba says the operation, which uses a small amount of fat taken from behind the ear to fill the perforation, requires only basic materials.

The operation is currently being done in a number of Montreal-area hospitals but "is starting to be known by everybody."

The physician says he's performed the procedure more than 400 times during the past five years on both adults and children — with results proving as successful as with traditional surgical techniques.

The success rate for adults is 92.7 per cent, but it's lower for children — 85.6 per cent.

"Because children are prone to get infections, colds, these conditions decrease the risk of success of this technique," Saliba said.

But he stresses that his technique, "which is like an appointment with a dentist" is safe and efficient in the treatment of ear drum perforations.

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