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Harold Pillsbury, M.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Raleigh-Durham, NC, US

Harold Pillsbury, M.D. Harold Pillsbury, M.D.

Thomas J. Dark Distinguished Professor, Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery | UNC-Chapel Hill

Raleigh-Durham, NC, UNITED STATES

Dr. Harold Pillsbury is a distinguished professor of Otolaryngology and executive director of The Children's Cochlear Implant Center.



Harold Pillsbury, M.D. Publication Harold Pillsbury, M.D. Publication Harold Pillsbury, M.D. Publication Harold Pillsbury, M.D. Publication







Harold C. Pillsbury, III, MD FACS, is the Chair of the UNC Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, as well as the Thomas J. Dark Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Pillsbury earned his B.A. and M.D. degrees from George Washington University in Washington, DC (1970 and 1972, respectively). He completed his residency training in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1976. Following six years at the Yale University School of Medicine, he joined the UNC faculty in 1982 as an Associate Professor. He served as Chief of the Division of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery from 1983 to 2001.

Dr. Pillsbury has completed an eighteen year term on the American Board of Otolaryngology where he served as Exam Chair and President. He is a past President of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The American Laryngological Association, The Society of University Otolaryngologists, and the Triological Society. He is also past CME coordinator and Vice-President of the Southern Section for the Triological Society. He is the President-Elect of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy.

Dr. Pillsbury has written and/or contributed to over 270 publications and over 45 textbooks. He has also given over 326 presentations nationally and internationally. He has been the primary investigator or co-investigator on over 21 grants. His special field of interest is neurotology and, most especially, cochlear implantation.

Dr. Harold Pillsbury's current research includes: otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, neurotology, facial plastic surgery, otolaryngologic allergy, cochlear implantation, acoustic tumors, skull base surgery, laser utilization in head and neck cancer.

Industry Expertise (5)

Education/Learning Research Writing and Editing Medical/Dental Practice Health and Wellness

Areas of Expertise (8)

Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Neurotology Higher Education plastic surgery Acoustic Tumors Medical Practice Medicine

Accomplishments (3)

Distinguished Faculty Award (professional)

Given annually by the UNC School of Medicine Medical Alumni Association, the award recognizes excellence in teaching, contributions to medicine, leadership in physician continuing education and efforts to improve communication among alumni, faculty and North Carolina residents.

James A. Harrill Lectureship (professional)

Current Controversies and Progress in Cochlear Implantation. Department of Otolaryngology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

Daniel C. Baker Lectureship (professional)

Laryngology Fellowships: Future Directions in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery. Meeting of the American Laryngological Association, Boca Raton.

Education (3)

University of North Carolina School of Medicine: Residency, Otolaryngology/Head Neck Surgery 1976

University of North Carolina School of Medicine: Residency, General Surgery 1973

George Washington University: M.D., Medicine 1972

Affiliations (5)

  • American Laryngological Rhinological and Otological Society (The Triological Society) : President (2007-2008)
  • American Board of Otolaryngology : President (2004-2006)
  • President American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery Inc. (1998-1999)
  • President American Laryngological Rhinological and Otological Society Inc. (The Triological Society) (2007-2008)
  • President American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy (2011-2012)

Media Appearances (3)

A NEW WORLD: UNC celebrates 1,000th pediatric cochlear implant

The Herald Sun  online


Dr. Pillsbury is featured in this article for The Herald Sun.

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MRI-safe cochlear implant now available

WRAL.com  online


"Cochlear implants have enabled more than 200,000 children and adults worldwide to hear, many for the first time in their lives. However, for implant patients, it becomes more difficult if they need MRI scans for other health issues. Now, there's a new MRI-safe cochlear implant."

Dr. Pillsbury is featured in this article for WRAL.com.

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When a battle turns into a blessing

ESPN  online


Dr. Pillsbury is featured in this article for ESPN.

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Event Appearances (1)

14th International Conference on Cochlear Implants and Other Implantable Technologies

Lecture  Toronto, Ontario


Articles (5)

Influence of Age at Revision Cochlear Implantation on Speech Perception Outcomes JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery


Importance: This study reviewed whether advanced age should be a consideration when revision cochlear implantation is warranted.

Objective: To examine whether age at revision cochlear implantation is related to postrevision speech perception performance.

Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective analysis was performed in an academic tertiary care center. Participants included 14 younger adults (

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Is “No Response” on Diagnostic Auditory Brainstem Response Testing an Indication for Cochlear Implantation in Children? Ear and Hearing


Objectives: To compare the results of a “no response” (NR) result on auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing with those of behavioral pure-tone audiometry and ultimate clinical tracking to cochlear implantation (CI).

Design: Retrospective review of pediatric patients who underwent multifrequency ABR testing in a 5 year span. Total of 1143 pediatric patients underwent ABR testing during the study period and 105 (9.2%) were identified with bilateral NR based on absent responses to both click and tone burst stimuli. For the children with NR, various clinical parameters were evaluated as these children progressed through the CI evaluation process. Children were grouped based on whether they underwent ABRs for diagnostic or for confirmatory purposes.

Results: Of the 105 children who met inclusion criteria, 94 had sufficient follow-up to be included in this analysis. Ninety-one (96.8%) of 94 children with bilateral NR ABRs were ultimately recommended for and received a CI. Three (3.2%) children were not recommended for implantation based on the presence of multiple comorbidities rather than auditory factors. None of the children (0%) had enough usable residual hearing to preclude CI. For those who had diagnostic ABRs, the average time at ABR testing was 5.4 months (SD 6.2, range 1–36) and the average time from ABR to CI was 10.78 months (SD 5.0, range 3–38).

Conclusions: CI should tentatively be recommended for children with a bilateral NR result with multifrequency ABR, assuming confirmatory results with behavioral audiometric testing. Amplification trials, counseling, and auditory-based intervention therapy should commence but not delay surgical intervention, as it does not appear to change the eventual clinical course. Children not appropriate for this “fast-tracking” to implantation might include those with significant comorbidities, auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, and unreliable or poorly correlated results on behavioral audiometric testing.

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Impact of Electric Stimulation on Residual Hearing American Academy of Audiology


Background: Candidacy criteria for cochlear implantation are expanding to include patients with substantial low-to-mid frequency hearing sensitivity. Postoperative hearing preservation has been achieved in cochlear implant recipients, though with variable outcomes. Previous investigations on postoperative hearing preservation outcomes have evaluated intraoperative procedures. There has been limited review as to whether electric stimulation influences hearing preservation.

Purpose: The purpose of this analysis was to evaluate whether charge levels associated with electric stimulation influence postoperative hearing preservation within the first year of listening experience.

Research Design: Retrospective analysis of unaided residual hearing and charge levels.

Study Sample: Twenty-eight cochlear implant recipients with postoperative residual hearing in the operative ear and at least 12 mo of listening experience with electric-acoustic stimulation (EAS).

Data Collection and Analysis: Assessment intervals included initial cochlear implant activation, initial EAS activation, and 3-, 6-, and 12-mo postinitial EAS activation. A masked low-frequency bone-conduction (BC) pure-tone average (PTA) was calculated for all participants at each assessment interval. Charge levels for each electrode were determined using the most comfortable loudness level and pulse width values. Charge levels associated with different regions of the electrode array were compared to the change in the low-frequency BC PTA between two consecutive intervals.

Results: Charge levels had little to no association with the postoperative change in low-frequency BC PTA within the first year of listening experience.

Conclusions: Electric charge levels do not appear to be reliably related to the subsequent loss of residual low-frequency hearing in the implanted ear within the first year of EAS listening experience.

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Infratemporal Fossa Approach to Lesions in the Temporal Bone and Base of the Skull JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery


An infratemporal fossa approach for extensive tumors of the temporal bone, clivus, and parasellar and parasphenoid regions features permanent anterior transposition of the facial nerve, resection of the mandibular condyle, and mobilization of the zygoma and lateral orbital rim. Obliteration of the pneumatic spaces of the temporal bone with permanent occlusion of the Eustachian tube and blindsack closure of the external auditory canal avoids the danger of postoperative infection and leads to primary wound healing in the shortest time. Three cases demonstrate selective utilization of the infratemporal fossa approach. Short-term results and complications were observed in 51 patients.

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Rhinocerebral Mucormycosis JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery


Mucormycosis is a fulminant fungal infection occurring in debilitated patients with an underlying pathologic condition. The rhinocerebral form of the disease, which comprises nearly one half of recently reported cases, is most often found in uncontrolled diabetics or profoundly dehydrated children. Infection usually begins in the nose and progresses through the paranasal sinuses, invading the orbit and CNS secondarily. Despite the known pathogenesis of this disease, the ophthalmologist is often first to consider the diagnosis, due to inadequate intranasal examination by the primary physician. The delay caused by late occurrence of orbital manifestations has resulted in poor survival rates, despite vigorous therapy. In recent years, increased physician awareness has led to earlier diagnosis of rhinocerebral mucormycosis. This report presents 13 cases with which we have dealt since 1963. The long-term survival rate is 85%. Aggressive surgical therapy, with repeated debridement, in combination with intravenous amphotericin B, have led to this high rate of cure.

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