Transplants that help ailing organs

Transplants that help ailing organs - MIRACLES OF MODERN MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY


IT IS no secret that we have travelled light years in term of medical technology.

When someone said that it would be possible to transplant a heart in South Africa more than 50 years ago, he would have been the joke of the town. Fast forward to today, almost anything is possible with new medical technology.

People born without limbs, for example, can have prosthesis fitted, and even run marathons better than those born with fully functioning limbs.

But what other medical prosthetics are available on the market to help with our failing organs?

If one has a heart that is not functioning properly, or a bladder that cannot control itself anymore, is there anything that can be fitted to assist the organ?

We had a chat with physician Dr Clement McKenzie, who gave us an overview of some of the medical procedures that can be performed to assist ailing organs.

Cochlear implant

For centuries, deafness was seen as a permanent disability, with no aid or hope of ever hearing sounds again. That is, until cochlear implants came about, and have given hope to people with hearing loss to assist with giving them the sensation of sound again.

“This is a device that is fitted to someone who has had hearing loss, and are designed to provide a sense of sound to those with deafness as a result of damage to the sensory cells in the ear.

“It is important to note, however, that this device does not restore normal hearing, but can assist the patient with a unique representation of sound, and help them understand speech, making communication easier,” McKenzie says. “The cochlear implant communicates directly with the brain through the auditory

nerve, which is what makes it distinct from a hearing aid. The device is two-fold, and consists of an external piece placed behind the ear, and another piece which is inserted surgically underneath the skin.

“A lot of speech therapy will be needed by the cochlear device receiver after the fact, as the person will have to learn how to interpret the different sounds, as well as how to understand speech. But over time, it is a very effective aid for hearing loss patients.”

Pacemaker implant

The pacemaker is a godsend for those with irregular heartbeats. Some people have heartbeats that palpitate rapidly, and some have a weak, faint heartbeat.

he pacemaker is a godsend for those with irregular heartbeats.

Both are the direct result of various, often serious, medical conditions, but the pacemaker was designed to regulate one’s heartbeat and get it beating at a normal rate again.

“Some people have often referred to the pacemaker as the heart with a watch. This is not true. A heart cannot have a watch although the pacemaker has a battery, and would need to be replaced once the battery runs low. This can, however, take years.”

The pacemaker is a device that ensures heartbeat is normal, by either slowing a fast blood pump, or picking up the speed of a slow blood pump, either of which can have serious implications for the sufferer.

The pacemaker is attached to the heart muscle after an incision is made in the chest.

Recovery time is relatively rapid but regular check-ups with your doctor is strongly recommended.

Penile implant

Most people would be forgiven for thinking that a penis is cut off a cadaver and placed onto someone who lost their penis, at hearing the concept of a penile implant. The truth, however, is less severe.

“A penile implant is performed to assist men who cannot get erections, or with erectile dysfunction.

“Men who have used erectile dysfunction drugs and injections without any improvement are the most likely candidates for a penile implant surgery. This is usually accompanied by a series of tests to determine the root of the erectile dysfunction, and if implant surgery is the best option.

“The actual procedure involves the surgeon placing a pump in the scrotum, which is then used to literally inflate the penis to achieve an erection, and deflate it again after intercourse.”


It is characterised by the involuntary leak of urine during coughing, laughing or suddenly getting up, which can be a very embarrassing problem. Although commonly affecting women, men can also suffer from incontinence.

“The treatment of incontinence in women is usually done with noninvasive surgery, with the insertion of a mesh-like material called a sling into the vagina placed under the urethra to provide support and prevents any leakage of urine during any physical activities.”

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