NHS England to fund pioneering new brain surgery

NHS England has announced that a pioneering brain surgery that allows children who are deaf to experience the sensation of hearing for the first time is being made routinely available.

Two highly specialist teams at hospitals based at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, part of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London will perform Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABIs) surgery for children who are deaf across the country.

For children who are profoundly deaf, aged five or under, the surgery will also be made available for those who are unable to use conventional hearing aids or implants because their inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve did not develop properly.

The highly complex procedure involves inserting a device directly into the brain to stimulate hearing pathways, bypassing the cochlea and auditory nerve that have not developed properly. It is estimated that about 15 children per year would be assessed for auditory brainstem implantation and that about nine would go on to have the surgery, which costs around £60,000 per patient.

Scott Rutherford, neurosurgeon with the Manchester University Foundation Trust team, said: “Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust is delighted to be chosen as one of only two centres in the UK to offer auditory brainstem implants as a treatment for children born without hearing nerves. A commitment by NHS England to fund the service for children will secure its future and allow more families to benefit from our clinical expertise.”

Stephen Powis, NHS England's medical director, said: “This truly life-changing surgery, which allows youngsters to hear their parents’ voices for the first time, will now be available across England for children who are deaf who have no other options. As we put the NHS Long Term Plan into practice, the health service will continue to make the very latest, innovative treatments, like this, available to patients across the country along with world class care.”

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