Ear implants linked to meningitis
ABOUT HALF of the increased risk appears to be due to one model of implant that was taken off the market a year ago. Nevertheless, children with other brands are still about 16 times more likely than usual to have bacterial meningitis.
risk first came to surgeons’ attention in the spring of 2002.
It was quickly linked to an implant made by Advanced Bionics, one of three companies
that sell the devices in the United States.
the Food and Drug Administration reported 52 cases of meningitis after
including five deaths. The FDA and the Centers for
and Prevention investigated the magnitude of the problem and reported the findings
in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Overall, they found 138 cases of meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, the most common germ, for every 100,000 years of life, which is 30 times the incidence among children the same age in the general population.
The researchers said they cannot be sure how much of this is caused by the implants themselves and how much from other factors, such as the ear abnormalities that underlie the children’s deafness. Meningitis itself can cause deafness, and those who lose their hearing this way may be prone to later episodes.
The CDC’s Jennita Reefhuis, principal author of the study, said the results do not mean cochlear implants are too risky for the young.
“It’s important for people to remember that cochlear implants can
do wonderful things for children,” she said. “Those who are deaf
can learn to sing songs and to speak.”
After concern about the infections emerged last year, Dr. Noel Cohen
of New York University surveyed the 401 U.S. centers that implant the
devices and found several
cases that had not been reported to the manufacturers.
Unlike other implants, it contained a small wedge that pushed an implanted
electrode against the wall of the inner ear. How this increased the risk
is unclear, though possible factors were the size of the device, trauma
to the inner ear and the presence of an additional foreign body.
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