Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, (1), pp. 515-518, 2015
The aim of this study was to investigate the applicability of tubular manipulators as an actuator mechanism for intracochlear positioning of the electrode array (EA) of a cochlear implant (CI). This is motivated by the vision of an atraumatic insertion of the EA into the inner ear (cochlea) without any damage to the intracochlear structures in combination with a well-defined final position. To realize this, an actuator mechanism is required which allows consideration of the patient-specific anatomy. We propose a tubular manipulator for this task. It consists of three concentric tubes: A straight outer tube serves as a guiding sleeve to enter the inner ear (cochlea) and two additional telescoping, superelastic, helically precurved tubes. By selecting helical tube parameters of both tubes prior insertion, a patient-specific curling behaviour of the tubular manipulator can be achieved. For preliminary investigation, segmentation and skeletonization of 5 human scala tympani were performed to determine their centrelines. These centrelines were considered as individual ideal insertion paths. An optimization algorithm was developed to identify suitable tube set parameters (curvature, diameter, length, torsion, stiffness) as well as configuration parameters (translation and rotation of the 2 inner tubes). Different error values describing the deviation of the shape of the tubes with respect to the insertion path were used to quantify the optimization results. In all cases tube set parameters for a final position within the cochlea were found, while keeping the maximum error below 1mm. These preliminary results are promising in terms of the potential applicability of tubular manipulators for positioning auditory prosthesis inside the scala tympani of the inner ear.