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Keywords:

  • human cochlea;
  • anatomical variations;
  • ultrastructure;
  • cochlear implantation;
  • trauma

Abstract

This is a review of the anatomical characteristics of human cochlea and the importance of variations in this anatomy to the process of cochlear implantation (CI). Studies of the human cochlea are essential to better comprehend the physiology and pathology of man's hearing. The human cochlea is difficult to explore due to its vulnerability and bordering capsule. Inner ear tissue undergoes quick autolytic changes making investigations of autopsy material difficult, even though excellent results have been presented over time. Important issues today are novel inner ear therapies including CI and new approaches for inner ear pharmacological treatments. Inner ear surgery is now a reality, and technical advancements in the design of electrode arrays and surgical approaches allow preservation of remaining structure/function in most cases. Surgeons should aim to conserve cochlear structures for future potential stem cell and gene therapies. Renewal interest of round window approaches necessitates further acquaintance of this complex anatomy and its variations. Rough cochleostomy drilling at the intricate “hook” region can generate intracochlear bone-dust-inducing fibrosis and new bone formation, which could negatively influence auditory nerve responses at a later time point. Here, we present macro- and microanatomic investigations of the human cochlea viewing the extensive anatomic variations that influence electrode insertion. In addition, electron microscopic (TEM and SEM) and immunohistochemical results, based on specimens removed at surgeries for life-threatening petroclival meningioma and some well-preserved postmortal tissues, are displayed. These give us new information about structure as well as protein and molecular expression in man. Our aim was not to formulate a complete description of the complex human anatomy but to focus on aspects clinically relevant for electric stimulation, predominantly, the sensory targets, and how surgical atraumaticity best could be reached. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.