Vestibular Implants: 8 Years of Experience with Electrical Stimulation of the Vestibular Nerve in 11 Patients with Bilateral Vestibular Loss.

Research paper by Nils N Guinand, Raymond R van de Berg, Samuel S Cavuscens, Robert J RJ Stokroos, Maurizio M Ranieri, Marco M Pelizzone, Herman H Kingma, Jean-Philippe JP Guyot, Angelica A Perez-Fornos

Indexed on: 15 Sep '15Published on: 15 Sep '15Published in: ORL; journal for oto-rhino-laryngology and its related specialties


The concept of the vestibular implant is primarily to artificially restore the vestibular function in patients with a bilateral vestibular loss (BVL) by providing the central nervous system with motion information using electrical stimulation of the vestibular nerve. Our group initiated human trials about 10 years ago.Between 2007 and 2013, 11 patients with a BVL received a vestibular implant prototype providing electrodes to stimulate the ampullary branches of the vestibular nerve. Eye movements were recorded and analyzed to assess the effects of the electrical stimulation. Perception induced by electrical stimulation was documented.Smooth, controlled eye movements were obtained in all patients showing that electrical stimulation successfully activated the vestibulo-ocular pathway. However, both the electrical dynamic range and the amplitude of the eye movements were variable from patient to patient. The axis of the response was consistent with the stimulated nerve branch in 17 out of the 24 tested electrodes. Furthermore, in at least 1 case, the elicited eye movements showed characteristics similar to those of compensatory eye movements observed during natural activities such as walking. Finally, diverse percepts were reported upon electrical stimulation (i.e., rotatory sensations, sound, tickling or pressure) with intensity increasing as the stimulation current increased.These results demonstrate that electrical stimulation is a safe and effective means to activate the vestibular system, even in a heterogeneous patient population with very different etiologies and disease durations. Successful tuning of this information could turn this vestibular implant prototype into a successful artificial balance organ.