Surgical techniques and functional evaluation for vestibular lesions in the mouse: unilateral labyrinthectomy (UL) and unilateral vestibular neurectomy (UVN)

J Neurol. 2020 Dec;267(Suppl 1):51-61. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-09960-8. Epub 2020 Jun 17.


Objective: Unilateral labyrinthectomy (UL) and unilateral vestibular neurectomy (UVN) are two surgical methods to produce vestibular lesions in the mouse. The objective of this study was to describe the surgical technique of both methods, and compare functional compensation using vestibulo-ocular reflex-based tests.

Methods: UL and UVN were each performed on groups of seven and ten mice, respectively. Main surgical landmarks were the facial nerve, the external auditory canal and the sternomastoid and digastric muscles. For UL, the sternomastoid muscle was elevated to expose the mastoid, which was drilled to destroy the labyrinth. For UVN, the bulla was drilled opened and a transcochlear approach enabled the identification of the vestibulo-cochlear nerve exiting the brainstem, which was sectioned and the ganglion of Scarpa suctioned. Behaviour and vestibular function were analysed before surgery and at 1, 4, 7 days and at 1 month postlesion using sinusoidal rotation, off-vertical axis rotation, static head tilts and angular velocity steps.

Results: UL is a faster and safer procedure than UVN (operative time 16.3 vs 20.5 min, p = 0.19; survival rate 86% vs 60%, p = 0.25). UVN was more severe with significantly worse behavioural scores at day 4 and day 7 (p < 0.001). Vestibular compensation was overall similar during the first week and at 1 month (non-statistically significant difference).

Conclusion: Both UL and UVN procedures can routinely be performed in the mouse with similar post-operative recovery and behavioural compensation. The operative risk of vascular or neurological damage is smaller in UL compared to UVN. UVN may be required for specific research protocols studying central cellular process specifically related to the destruction of the ganglion of Scarpa and following vestibular nerve degeneration.

Keywords: Mouse; Surgery; Unilateral labyrinthectomy; Unilateral vestibular neurectomy; Vestibular compensation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Denervation
  • Mice
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular
  • Rotation
  • Vestibular Nerve / surgery
  • Vestibular Nuclei
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth* / surgery