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Temporal bone studies of the human peripheral vestibular system. Aminoglycoside ototoxicity.

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Department of Otolaryngolgy, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston 02114, USA.


Quantitative assessments of vestibular hair cells and Scarpa's ganglion cells were performed on 17 temporal bones from 10 individuals who had well-documented clinical evidence of aminoglycoside ototoxicity (streptomycin, kanamycin, and neomycin). Assessment of vestibular hair cells was performed by Nomarski (differential interference contrast) microscopy. Hair cell counts were expressed as densities (number of cells per 0.01 mm2 surface area of the sensory epithelium). The results were compared with age-matched normal data. Streptomycin caused a significant loss of both type I and type II hair cells in all 5 vestibular sense organs. In comparing the ototoxic effect on type I versus type II hair cells, there was greater type I hair cell loss for all 3 cristae, but not for the maculae. The vestibular ototoxic effects of kanamycin appeared to be similar to those of streptomycin, but the small sample size precluded definitive conclusions from being made. Neomycin did not cause loss of vestibular hair cells. Within the limits of this study (maximum postototoxicity survival time of 12 months), there was no significant loss of Scarpa's ganglion cells for any of the 3 drugs. The findings have implications in several clinical areas, including the correlation of vestibular test results to pathological findings, the rehabilitation of patients with vestibular ototoxicity, the use of aminoglycosides to treat Meniere's disease, and the development of a vestibular prosthesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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