20th anniversary of the first implantation of the auditory brainstem implant in Poland

This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first implantation of the auditory brainstem implant in Poland, which was carried out on January 9, 1998 by prof. Henryk Skarzynski in cooperation with scientists from Austria and Germany. Poland has become the fourth country in the world in which this type of difficult and complicated treatment was carried out. The 12-hour operation was successful and the patient of prof. Skarżyński has obtained results never seen in the world before – after the surgery she began to understand speech freely. There are still only a dozen such patients in the world.

– The brainstem was usually associated with severe injuries, brain contusion. When it turned out that we can successfully stimulate the cochlear nuclei in the brainstem, which means the very sensitive areas of the central nervous system, this has become our next challenge. – recalls prof. Henryk Skarzynski. – Back then, together with colleagues from Austria and Germany, we prepared and launched in Poland, as the fourth country in the world, a deafness treatment program using the auditory implants implanted in the brainstem – adds prof. Skarzynski.

The first patient was Sylwia – a young woman who had cancer lesions removed from the brainstem area on one side. There was another operation waiting in her future. With great stubbornness and determination, she was seeking a chance to return to the world of sound. She found help at the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing.

The operation was very successful, since such results as Sylwia had had not been obtained anywhere in the world before. These results illustrated the incredible possibilities within each one of us, which are possible to extract.

– Already after 2-3 months of hearing rehabilitation, Sylwia began to freely understand speech in Polish and German, moreover, she began to learn Italian – recalls prof. Skarzynski. – Hearing benefits that she gained through stimulation of the cochlear nuclei in the brainstem were the best in the world. It was surprising not only for us, but also for other specialists. No one expected that the auditory brainstem implant could give such excellent results. We understood that stimulation of the most delicate structures within the central nervous system is both possible and safe. With Sylvia, we have opened a new stage in the development of neurootosurgery – adds Professor.

Since then, under the care of the team of the World Hearing Center there is a group of over a dozen patients. According to the result of research conducted by prof. Bob Shannon, one of the pioneers in the auditory brainstem implant program at the House Research Institute in Los Angeles, those patients are the best rehabilitated group in the world. At the request of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he assessed the effectiveness of this method of treatment. As part of his research, he studied patients undergoing surgery in various centers around the world. The patients of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing obtained the highest note in this study.

– It means – emphasizes prof. Skarzynski – that by organizing a team of extremely experienced surgeons and clinical engineers, we created in Kajetany conditions in which patients suffering from this rare tumor can find both effective treatment and exceptionally good care.

Strategy chosen by prof. Skarzynski and his colleagues turned out to be safe and effective. Ten years later, in 2008 – also in the framework of cooperation with an international team – the first patient in the world who underwent bilateral implantation to the brainstem was co-operated in Kajetany.