Meniere's Disease

Meniere's disease affects about 150/100,000 Americans and often affects the most productive years of life. The disease can incapictate an individual by repetitive episodes of vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus. A laddered approach to management of our patients exists at the Ear Institute of Chicago. Generally speaking, early in the disease an individual may respond to medical therapy alone. However, today, if one does not quickly respond to medical therapy, there are options. These options consist, for example, of either steroid injections into the middle ear or gentamicin injections, so called intra-tympanic (IT) treatment or middle ear perfusion. Intratympanic treatments are reserved for cases in which patients continue to have recurrent episodes of vertigo despite medical management. As needed, a shunt operation may be tried to stop the attacks of vertigo. For the most severe cases, vestibular nerve section is an option. The last two operations are used when hearing is still serviceable. When it is not, a labryinthectomy is the best alternative, and is helpful in the majority of cases.

Surgery to Decrease Fluid Pressure

Endolymphatic shunt

Endolymphatic shunt placement drains excess inner ear fluid (endolymph) from the inner ear. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia with an operative time of approximately one hour. Most people go home the day of surgery. At the time of surgery, an incision is made behind the ear, and a plastic shunt tube is placed into the endolymphatic sac of the inner ear. The shunt allows excess inner ear fluid (less than 7 microliters of fluid) to drain into the bony cavity (mastoid) behind the ear.

A shunt operation usually is advised when hearing is relatively good in the involved ear. Further permanent loss of hearing occurs in less than 5% of patients. Total loss of hearing in the operated ear occurs in less than 1% of cases.

Surgery to Cut the Balance Nerve

Section of the vestibular (balance) nerve

Section (cutting) of the vestibular nerve may be advised when hearing is good in the involved ear. The operation is performed under general anesthesia and usually requires 4-7 days of hospitalization. Through an incision behind the ear, a portion of the mastoid bone is removed and the balance nerve is cut. In the majority of cases, the hearing remains the same after surgery. In some cases, the hearing is temporarily reduced for several weeks after surgery. The symptom of vertigo is eliminated in approximately 95 - 98% of cases. Persistent unsteadiness, however, may continue for weeks or months until the opposite ear stabilizes the balance system.

Surgery to Destroy the Balance Organ

Transmastoid labyrinthectomy           

Transmastoid labyrinthectomy is advised only when the hearing is poor. The operation results in total loss of hearing in the operated ear. This operation is performed under general anesthesia and requires hospitalization for approximately 3-4 days.  Through an incision behind the ear, a portion of the mastoid bone is removed, and the inner ear balance chambers are removed.

Vertigo is eliminated in approximately 95 - 98% of cases. Persistent unsteadiness, however, may continue for a period of weeks or months until the opposite ear stabilizes the balance system.

Transcanal (oval window) labyrithectomy

Oval window labyrinthectomy usually is advised only when the hearing is poor.  It results in total loss of hearing in the operated ear and a temporary increase in dizziness. This operation is usually performed under general anesthesia through the ear canal and requires 3-4 days of hospitalization. It consists of removing fluid and nerve endings from the inner ear.