Management of Cochlear Implant Electrode Migration

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The present study reviewed a cochlear implant (CI) patient population after surgery, which received a free-fitting electrode carrier designed for hearing preservation. The aim was to determine the rate of electrode migration of the CI electrodes and present clinical and surgical implications.

Study Design:

Retrospective patient review.


Tertiary referral university hospital.


Two hundred seventy-eight patients implanted uni- or bilaterally with lateral wall electrodes designed for hearing preservation (358 implants). The control group was 323 patients implanted uni- or bilaterally with preformed perimodiolar electrodes (468 implants).


Determination of CI electrode migration was conducted according to a clinical test protocol. Revision surgery was offered in confirmed patients of electrode migration. A bone groove was considered to improve the fixation of the electrode.

Main Outcome Measures:

Audiological testing including speech audiometry, subjective sound quality rating, and bilateral pitch comparison in bilateral patients, as well as radiological examinations, were conducted.


Electrode migration was observed solely in patients implanted with lateral wall electrodes; 10 of 358 patients with free-fitting electrodes (2.8%) had electrode migration, which was successfully confirmed by the proposed clinical test protocol. Nine of the 10 confirmed patients underwent reinsertion surgery. Mean perception score decreased from 75.0% to 62.1% after electrode migration and recovered completely after reinsertion surgery. A flowchart to detect electrode migration was designed for clinical practice.


Although electrode migration is a rare complication in CI surgery, long-term follow-up diagnostics should include a test protocol to detect electrode shifts of lateral wall electrode arrays. A reinsertion surgery should be conducted in confirmed patients to recover speech perception.

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