A cochlear implant array consists of biomaterials, including metal and polymeric in type which are biocompatible, but not necessarily bio-inert. Histologic evidence of a foreign body reaction has been described in temporal bones in patients who in life had undergone cochlear implantation. In the current study, the cellular immune response was characterized using immunohistochemical stains for B-cell lymphocytes (CD20), T-cell lymphocytes (CD3), and macrophages (CD68). In addition, energy dispersive spectroscopy by scanning electron microscopy (EDS-SEM) was performed to characterize the nature of particulate foreign material seen near the electrode array. Infiltrations of B-cell and Tcell lymphocytes and macrophages were identified immunohistochemically. The track of the electrode array was frequently lined by multi-nucleated foreign body giant cells. Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy identified the particulate material found in the fibrous sheeth surrounding the cochlear implant to be consistent with platinum. In conclusion, a cochlear implant generates a vigorous cellular immune response consisting of B and T lymphocytes, foreign body giant cells, and macrophages. Platinum was identified as one of the antigens likely responsible for this cellular response. This foreign body response may in certain cases result in migration or even extrusion of an implant device.
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