Uncovering Vulnerable Phases in Cochlear Implant Electrode Array Insertion: Insights from an In Vitro Model

Otol Neurotol. 2024 Apr 1;45(4):e271-e280. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000004130. Epub 2024 Feb 9.


Objectives: The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of the mechanics involved in the insertion of lateral wall cochlear implant electrode arrays.

Design: A series of 30 insertion experiments were conducted by three experienced surgeons. The experiments were carried out in a previously validated artificial temporal bone model according to established soft surgery guidelines. The use of an in vitro setup enabled us to comprehensively evaluate relevant parameters, such as insertion force, intracochlear pressure, and exact electrode array position in a controlled and repeatable environment.

Results: Our findings reveal that strong intracochlear pressure transients are more frequently caused during the second half of the insertion, and that regrasping the electrode array is a significant factor in this phenomenon. For choosing an optimal insertion speed, we show that it is crucial to balance slow movement to limit intracochlear stress with short duration to limit tremor-induced pressure spikes, challenging the common assumption that a slower insertion is inherently better. Furthermore, we found that intracochlear stress is affected by the order of execution of postinsertion steps, namely sealing the round window and posterior tympanotomy with autologous tissue and routing of the excess cable into the mastoid cavity. Finally, surgeons' subjective estimates of physical parameters such as speed, smoothness, and resistance did not correlate with objectively assessed measures, highlighting that a thorough understanding of intracochlear mechanics is essential for an atraumatic implantation.

Conclusion: The results presented in this article allow us to formulate evidence-based surgical recommendations that may ultimately help to improve surgical outcome and hearing preservation in cochlear implant patients.

MeSH terms

  • Cochlea / surgery
  • Cochlear Implantation* / methods
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Humans
  • Round Window, Ear / surgery
  • Temporal Bone / surgery