The present study sought to 1) characterize insertion forces resulting from a flexible straight electrode array (EA) inserted at slow and ultra-slow insertion velocities, and 2) evaluate if ultra-slow velocities decrease insertion forces independent of other variables.
Low insertion forces are desirable in cochlear implant (CI) surgery to reduce trauma and preserve hearing. Recently, ultra-slow insertion velocities (lower than manually feasible) have been shown to produce significantly lower insertion forces using other EAs.
Five flexible straight EAs were used to record insertion forces into an inelastic artificial scala tympani model. Eleven trial recordings were performed for each EA at five predetermined automated, continuous insertion velocities ranging from 0.03 to 1.6 mm/s.
An ultra-slow insertion velocity of 0.03 mm/s resulted in a median insertion force of 0.010 N at 20 mm of insertion depth, and 0.026 N at 24.3 mm—the final insertion depth. These forces represent only 24 to 29% of those measured using 1.6 mm/s. After controlling for insertion depth of the EA into the artificial scala tympani model and trial insertion number, decreasing the insertion velocity from 0.4 to 0.03 mm/s resulted in a 50% decrease in the insertion forces.
Using the tested EA ultra-slow velocities can decrease insertion forces, independent of variables like insertion depth. Our results suggest ultra-slow velocities can reduce insertion forces at least 60%, compared with humanly feasible continuous velocities (≥0.9 mm/s).