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Untreated chronic otitis media severely impairs quality of life in affected individuals. Local destruction of the middle ear and subsequent loss of hearing are common sequelae, and currently available treatments provide limited relief. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to evaluate the feasibility of the insertion of a coronary stent from the nasopharynx into the Eustachian tube in-vivo in sheep and to make an initial assessment of its positional stability, tolerance by the animal, and possible tissue reactions.
Bilateral implantation of bare metal cobalt-chrome coronary stents of two sizes was performed endoscopically in three healthy blackface sheep using a nasopharyngeal approach. The postoperative observation period was three months.
Stent implantation into the Eustachian tube was feasible with no intra- or post-operative complications. Health status of the sheep was unaffected. All stents preserved their cylindrical shape. All shorter stents remained in position and ventilated the middle ear even when partially filled with secretion or tissue. One of the long stents became dislocated toward the nasopharynx. Both of the others remained fixed at the isthmus but appeared to be blocked by tissue or secretion. Tissue overgrowth on top of the struts of all stents resulted in closure of the tissue-lumen interface.
Stenting of the Eustachian tube was successfully transferred from cadaver studies to an in-vivo application without complications. The stent was well tolerated, the middle ears were ventilated, and clearance of the auditory tube appeared possible. For fixation, it seems to be sufficient to place it only in the cartilaginous part of the Eustachian tube.