You can never be too young or too thin, the saying goes. But in the case of cochlear implant (CI) surgery, just how young can a patient with profound hearing loss be—and still qualify as a viable and safe candidate for the procedure?
Explore this issue:August 2012
The FDA has recognized that there are risks associated with CIs in younger patients. For example, the general anesthesia required by the surgery has been linked to the development of long-term learning disabilities (Anesthesiology. 2009;110:796-804). Partly due to these risks, CI surgery has been approved by the FDA in the U.S only for children 12 months of age or older. But in Italy, a team of pediatric specialists is pushing the age envelope and implanting children as young as two months of age. They are reporting, for the first time, that the procedure can yield significant improvements in speech perception and several other auditory outcomes, with little to no risk to these younger patients (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg [published online ahead of print March 27, 2012]).
The rationale for performing CI surgery in infants has a logical basis in physiology, according to Vittorio Colletti, MD, a surgeon in the ENT department at the