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Clinical Relevance of the Distance Between the Cochlea and the Facial Nerve in Cochlear Implantation

Kruschinski, Carsten*†; Weber, Benno Paul; Pabst, Reinhard*


Hypothesis To elucidate possible mechanisms of facial nerve costimulation after cochlear implantation that are supposed to result from the close cochlea to facial nerve contact.

Background One of the postoperative complications of cochlear implantation is facial muscle twitching, which has preferentially been found in otosclerotic patients. It impairs hearing benefits because of deactivation of electrodes and can still not be adequately prevented.

Methods A total of 13 temporal bones were dissected to quantify where the labyrinthine portion of the facial nerve is closest to the scala tympani, the placement site of the cochlear implantation electrode array. After the typical operative procedures to find out the number of electrodes lying closest to the facial nerve were performed, a cochlear implantation array was inserted into four specimens. The clinical records of 14 otosclerotic patients were investigated to correlate these results with the position of in vivo deactivated electrodes.

Results The closest distance between the scala tympani and the nerve was only 0.33 mm (±0.14). On average, after insertion of 23 electrode resp. marking rings, the facial nerve was reached. This is clinically the position of most frequently deactivated electrodes to prevent postoperative facial nerve costimulation.

Conclusions These investigations support the hypothesis that a direct current spread at the site of the facial nerve crossing the cochlear basal turn is most likely the reason for postoperative facial muscle twitching facilitated in otospongiotic bone. Prevention could therefore be achieved by cochlear implantation designs and surgical techniques that take into consideration the site of closest contact.

Department of *Functional and Applied Anatomy and †Otorhinolaryngology, Medical School of Hannover, Germany. B. P. Weber is presently at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Carsten Kruschinski, Functional und Applied Anatomy 4120, Medical School of Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany. Email:

© 2003 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.