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Surgical Complications and Their Management in a Series of 300 Consecutive Pediatric Cochlear Implantations

Bhatia, Kunwar; Gibbin, Kevin P.; Nikolopoulos, Thomas P.; O'Donoghue, Gerard M.

Cochlear Implants

Objective: To report the short- and long-term complications encountered in a large number of consecutive children undergoing implantation in a single center. The current study also describes the management and sequelae of each complication.

Study Design: Prospective study assessing the surgical findings and complications of deaf children undergoing implantation.

Setting: Pediatric tertiary referral center for cochlear implantation.

Patients: The present study includes 300 consecutive children undergoing implantation, with a mean age at implantation of 5.1 years, ranging from 1.3 to 16.9 years. Of these children, 196 (65%) had congenital deafness of unknown cause. The commonest known cause was meningitis (73 of 300 [24%]) followed by congenital cytomegalovirus infection (17 of 300 [6%]). Children have been followed up regularly after implantation, typically at yearly intervals after the first year. The mean duration of follow-up at the time of the study was 4 years (range, 0.1–14 yr).

Results: There were no major perioperative (within 1 d after surgery) or major early postoperative (within 1 wk after surgery) complications. In the same periods, there were 19 and 15 minor complications, respectively. These complications (e.g., eardrum perforation, hematoma, flap swelling, wound infection, temporary facial weakness) settled with conservative treatment or minor intervention. With regard to the late surgical complications (>1 wk after surgery), there were 7 major (e.g., severe flap infection requiring explantation, cholesteatoma, persistent eardrum perforation) and 14 minor complications (e.g., mild flap infection, flap swelling, hematoma). A number of complications were encountered even 14 years after the original operation, and some of them needed repeated interventions, highlighting the importance of long-term follow-up. However, most of the complications occurred very close to the surgical procedure (<1 yr).

Conclusion: An overall rate of 2.3% for major surgical complications and an overall rate of 16% for minor surgical complications suggest that cochlear implantation is a relatively safe surgical operation in experienced centers. Most surgical complications are minor and can be managed with conservative treatment or minor surgical intervention. However, meticulous attention to surgical detail, especially handling soft tissues and leaving the posterior canal wall intact, and long-term follow-up are of paramount importance in minimizing the incidence of surgical complications.

Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Nottingham University Hospital, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Thomas P. Nikolopoulos, M.D., D.M., Ph.D., 116 George Papandreou Street, Nea Philadelphia, Athens 143-42, Greece; Email: thomas.nikolopoulos@nottingham.ac.uk

© 2004 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.