Inhibition of post-meningitic cochlear injury with cerebrospinal fluid irrigation

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Feb;134(2):214-24. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2005.09.022.


Objective: Labyrinthitis ossificans, the pathologic ossification of the otic capsule associated with profound deafness and loss of vestibular function occurs frequently as a sequella of bacterial meningitis and subsequent purulent labyrinthitis. Experimentally, in Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis, it has been shown that a vigorous inflammatory response to teichoic acids in the bacterial cell wall contributes to cochlear damage and subsequent fibrosis and ossification. The hypothesis of this study is that a dilution of concentration of inflammatory mediators through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) irrigation will lead to a reduction in both inner ear pathology and permanent hearing loss.

Study design and setting: Auditory brainstem response testing was used to determine baseline hearing thresholds in 20 Mongolian gerbils (12 irrigated, 8 sham irrigated animals) at 32 kHz, 16 kHz, 8 kHz, and 4 kHz frequencies. Their thresholds at 14 days and 120 days post-procedure were also obtained. Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis was induced in both groups of animals by intrathecal (i.t.) injection of bacteria. Both groups received penicillin treatment. Forty-eight hours after inoculation, both groups were implanted with i.t. inflow and outflow catheters. The irrigated group was infused continuously with artificial CSF over 36 hr at a rate of 70 muL/hr and the outflow sampled. The tubing in the sham irrigated group was clamped (without sampling). They were sacrificed at 120 days post-procedure and histomorphometric analysis carried out. The concentration of interleukin 1beta (IL-1beta) for the CSF samples from the irrigated group were compared to samples collected from an additional control group of 8 non-irrigated meningitic gerbils. IL-1beta was chosen to study because it is a potent pro-inflammatory cytokines in bacterial meningitis that is unaffected by the neurosurgical trauma of the experimental protocol.

Results: Twenty animals survived the meningitis (6 irrigation, 6 sham irrigation, 8 non-irrigation meningitic controls). At Days 14 and 120 post-infection, the irrigated animals manifested significantly less hearing loss with a mean loss of 28.82 dB compared to the sham irrigation group mean loss of 40.76 dB (P < 0.03). The degree of hearing loss in both groups was frequency-dependent with greater loss at higher frequencies (mean loss = 22.4 dB at 32 kHz, 23.0 dB at 16 kHz, 18.6 dB at 8 kHz, and 12.5 dB at 4 kHz). Histomorphometric analysis demonstrated a marked reduction in degeneration of the spiral ligament, spiral ganglion cells, and stria vascularis in experimental animals as compared to controls. Immunohistochemistry showed a significant reduction in IL-beta1 concentrations in the irrigated animals compared to the non-irrigated, infected controls (P < 0.03).

Conclusions: Irrigation of CSF resulted in a significant reduction in post-meningitic cochlear injury when compared to controls. This model for continuous cerebrospinal fluid irrigation provides a means to evaluate the effects of a dilution of inflammatory mediators on hearing loss and labyrinthitis ossificans after bacterial meningitis.

Significance: Despite advances in the prevention of meningitis and improved antibiotic treatment, bacterial meningitis continues to have significant associated morbidity. This study provides insight into some of the mechanisms responsible for post-meningitic hearing loss and labyrinthitis ossificans and presents a novel approach to reduce these complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid
  • Cochlea / pathology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Gerbillinae
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interleukin-1 / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / complications*
  • Ossification, Heterotopic / therapy*
  • Pneumococcal Infections / complications*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation


  • Interleukin-1