Toward steerable electrodes. An overview of concepts and current research.

Thomas S. Rau 1 , Silke Hügl 2 , Thomas Lenarz 2 ,  and Omid Majdani 2
  • 1 Department of Otolaryngology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany
  • 2 Department of Otolaryngology and Cluster of Excellence “Hearing4all”, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany


Restoration of hearing is a demanding surgical task which requires the insertion of a cochlear implant electrode array into the inner ear while preserving the delicate basilar membrane inside the cochlea for an atraumatic insertion. Already shortly after the first clinical success with early versions of cochlear implants the desire for a controlled insertion of the electrode array arose. Such a steerable electrode should be in its shape adaptable to the individual path of the helical inner ear in order to avoid any contact between the implant and the surrounding tissue. This article provides a short overview of concepts and actuator mechanisms investigated in the past and present with the objective of developing a steerable electrode array for an individualized insertion process. Although none of these concepts has reached clinical implementation, there are promising experimental results indicating that insertion forces can be reduced up to 60% compared to straight and not steerable electrodes. Finally, related research topics are listed which require considerable further improvements until steerable electrodes will reach clinical applicability.

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Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering is an open access journal and closely related to the journal Biomedical Engineering - Biomedizinische Technik. CDBME is a forum for the exchange of knowledge in the fields of biomedical engineering, medical information technology and biotechnology/bioengineering for medicine and addresses engineers, natural scientists, and clinicians working in research, industry, or clinical practice.