Treatment of Ménière's disease by low-dosage intratympanic gentamicin application: effect on otolith function

Kai Helling, Uwe Schönfeld, Andrew H Clarke
Laryngoscope 2007, 117 (12): 2244-50

OBJECTIVES: The intratympanic application of a low dosage of gentamicin is increasingly favored as treatment for Ménière's disease. While posttreatment observations have confirmed a long-term success of the therapy of vertigo attacks, clear differences in the posttreatment recovery interval can be observed. In addition to differences in central-vestibular compensation, the degree of peripheral vestibular damage, i.e., to the saccule, utricle, and semicircular canal ampullae, varies among patients. This study provides comprehensive pre- and posttreatment results from unilateral functional tests of the individual vestibular receptors and of the cochlea in patients with Ménière's disease.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective clinical study.

METHODS: Nineteen patients with unilateral Ménière's disease were treated by intratympanic application of gentamicin by injection of 0.3 mL (12 mg) through the tympanic membrane under local anesthesia. Tests were performed immediately previous to treatment and subsequently in the periods 4 to 8 weeks and 12 to 16 weeks after treatment. Unilateral saccular function was tested by means of acoustic-click, vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP), and unilateral utricular function by subjective visual vertical (SVV) during unilateral centrifugation. Bithermal caloric testing was performed to assess unilateral semicircular canal function.

RESULTS: Prior to gentamicin treatment, the caloric response from the diseased ear was normal in 3 patients, below normal in 14 patients, and in 2 cases almost completely absent. VEMP responses could be recorded bilaterally in 13 patients; while in 6, no VEMPs could be measured from the diseased ear. Utricular function measured by SVV estimation was found to be normal in 11 patients and marginally abnormal in 2 patients. In six cases, the SVV was clearly underestimated during centrifugation of the diseased side. The posttreatment findings demonstrate that VEMPs were absent in all treated patients, and the caloric response was abnormally low in all but one case. In contrast, only 12 of 19 patients produced abnormal SVV responses.

CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate that incremental, intratympanic application of gentamicin effectively eliminates semicircular canal and saccular function. In contrast, utricular function appears to be maintained in 30 to 40% of cases.

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