Histopathologic Changes of the Inner ear in Rhesus Monkeys After Intratympanic Gentamicin Injection and Vestibular Prosthesis Electrode Array Implantation

Daniel Q. Sun, Mohamed Lehar, Chenkai Dai, Lani Swarthout, Amanda M. Lauer, John P. Carey, Diana E. Mitchell, Kathleen E. Cullen, Charles C.Della Santina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Bilateral vestibular deficiency (BVD) due to gentamicin ototoxicity can significantly impact quality of life and result in large socioeconomic burdens. Restoring sensation of head rotation using an implantable multichannel vestibular prosthesis (MVP) is a promising treatment approach that has been tested in animals and humans. However, uncertainty remains regarding the histopathologic effects of gentamicin ototoxicity alone or in combination with electrode implantation. Understanding these histological changes is important because selective MVP-driven stimulation of semicircular canals (SCCs) depends on persistence of primary afferent innervation in each SCC crista despite both the primary cause of BVD (e.g., ototoxic injury) and surgical trauma associated with MVP implantation. Retraction of primary afferents out of the cristae and back toward Scarpa’s ganglion would render spatially selective stimulation difficult to achieve and could limit utility of an MVP that relies on electrodes implanted in the lumen of each ampulla. We investigated histopathologic changes of the inner ear associated with intratympanic gentamicin (ITG) injection and/or MVP electrode array implantation in 11 temporal bones from six rhesus macaque monkeys. Hematoxylin and eosin-stained 10-μm temporal bone sections were examined under light microscopy for four treatment groups: normal (three ears), ITG-only (two ears), MVP-only (two ears), and ITG + MVP (four ears). We estimated vestibular hair cell (HC) surface densities for each sensory neuroepithelium and compared findings across end organs and treatment groups. In ITG-only, MVP-only, and ITG + MVP ears, we observed decreased but persistent ampullary nerve fibers of SCC cristae despite ITG treatment and/or MVP electrode implantation. ITG-only and ITG + MVP ears exhibited neuroepithelial thinning and loss of type I HCs in the cristae but little effect on the maculae. MVP-only and ITG + MVP ears exhibited no signs of trauma to the cochlea or otolith end organs except in a single case of saccular injury due to over-insertion of the posterior SCC electrode. While implanted electrodes reached to within 50–760 μm of the target cristae and were usually ensheathed in a thin fibrotic capsule, dense fibrotic reaction and osteoneogenesis were each observed in only one of six electrode tracts examined. Consistent with physiologic studies that have demonstrated directionally appropriate vestibulo-ocular reflex responses to MVP electrical stimulation years after implantation in these animals, histologic findings in the present study indicate that although intralabyrinthine MVP implantation causes some inner ear trauma, it can be accomplished without destroying the distal afferent fibers an MVP is designed to excite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-387
Number of pages15
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • cochlear implant
  • gentamicin
  • intratympanic
  • macaque
  • rhesus
  • transtympanic
  • vestibular implant
  • vestibular prosthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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