Golden Scalpel 2021 for an innovative surgery to restore hearing

Another edition of the “Golden Scalpel” contest is over. For the 13th time, editors of the “Pulse of Medicine” magazine distinguished innovators who have changed Polish medicine for the better. This year, the winner was the project submitted by the specialists from the World Hearing Centre in Kajetany: “Functional reconstruction of hearing using Bonebridge 602 hearing implant and bioactive glass.” Its leader is Prof. Piotr H. Skarżyński, and the team members include: Dr. Marek Porowski, Dr. Andrzej Pastuszak, Dr. Bartosz Król,  Katarzyna Cywka, Ph.D. in Health Sciences, and Prof. Henryk Skarżyński.

– The surgical procedure we submitted to the Golden Scalpel contest takes place in two stages. In the first stage,  bioactive glass is placed around the elements of the mastoid. After 6-12 months, a bone conduction implant is implanted. Then, 2-8 weeks after the operation, an audiologist activates the implant’s processor. This innovative combination of two surgical techniques allows the patient to regain the ability to hear very well, which was previously not possible in the case of such defects. The comfort of everyday life is also significantly improved. After this procedure, patients can swim or wash their hair without worrying about dizziness or ear inflammation – says the leader of the winning project, Prof.  Piotr H. Skarżyński.

Bonebridge 602, which uses the phenomenon of bone conduction, which involves the transmission of a sound signal through the skull bones directly to the inner ear, consists of the external part (speech processor) and internal part  – which after the implantation is fully concealed under the patient’s skin. The biggest advantage of this system is its small size and the fact that the transducer inducing skull bones vibration (BC-FMT) configuration guarantees effective amplification of sound with almost 50 percent reduced depth of bone drilling compared to previously performed operations. Locating the system’s internal part entirely under the skin is vital from the cosmetic and medical points of view. Such implantations have a negligible postoperative complications rate and do not block the external auditory canal. The solution does not require further surgical interventions in the future, as all the changeable parts of the system are in the external sound microprocessor. As the power supply and electronics are placed in the external part, they can be replaced even after many years of use. Thus, the system can be updated without surgical intervention. Speaking about how patients can benefit from using BONEBRIDGE BCI 602, it should be stressed that the implant makes it possible to perform MR examination at 1.5 T without reoperation.  

The award-winning solution is designed for patients with a developed and well-functioning cochlea that the sound signal for some reasons cannot reach. These reasons can be lack or underdevelopment of the auricle and external auditory canal, a congenital defect in the middle ear, or a situation post-radical surgery.

The positions in the final top ten were determined by the cumulative points awarded by the jury. The contest rules stated that if a jury member was involved in one of the projects or such project involved people cooperating with the juror, they did not participate in the evaluation of the project. 

– Golden Scalpel is not a contest exclusively for surgeon, although the name may suggest so. Its idea was aptly defined by a juror in one of previous editions, who said that Golden Scalpel is the symbol of the golden mean that solves problems in medicine or health care system at once. Thus, among those competing for the title are innovators who can boast inventing or implementing a new therapy or diagnostic method as well as those who can propose solutions to improve the functioning of health care – said Małgorzata Konaszczuk, editor-in-chief of “Pulse of Medicine” magazine.  

In this year’s edition of the contest, teams of experts from all over Poland competed. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which substantially hindered research and implementation work  for scientists over the past year, we received several dozen submissions. The contest jury, comprised of eminent specialists in various fields of medicine, had a difficult task to select the final top ten and the winner of the Golden Scalpel 2021.