The ostrich middle ear for developing an ideal ossicular replacement prosthesis


The aim of the study was to investigate the validity of the avian middle ear model for researching the tympanoplasty mechanics. We studied the morphological details, acoustic transmission and quasi-static behavior of the ostrich tympano-ossicular system. The stained specimens of the ostrich middle ear were examined under a light microscope. The sound transfer function and quasi-static performance of the ostrich middle ear were evaluated using laser Doppler vibrometry. The application of pressure to the tip of the extracolumella causes a buckling movement of the ossicle between the cartilaginous and bony parts. Histologically, the intracolumellar connection can be identified as a junction zone between bone and hyaline cartilage. Sound conduction through the human middle ear is less effective than it is through the ostrich middle ear. The greatest difference (35 dB) was observed in the low-frequency region. Because the extracolumella bends, the medial displacements of the eardrum were not fully transmitted to the footplate. The amplitude of the ostrich columella footplate quasi-static medial displacements significantly exceeded that of the human footplate in both intact and reconstructed middle ears. The ostrich middle ear is a suitable model for designing total ossicular replacement implants. The main protective mechanism in the ostrich middle ear under quasi-static stress is a buckling movement of the extracolumella. The total ossicular prostheses of the new generation should contain an elastic element that allows an adaptation to greater quasi-static eardrum movements.

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This research was funded by a grant (No. A/06/92649) from the German Academic Exchange Service. A special thanks to Yury Yarin, Clinic of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and Ines Kleiber, Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany, for their assistance with preparation of specimens.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Irina Arechvo.

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Arechvo, I., Zahnert, T., Bornitz, M. et al. The ostrich middle ear for developing an ideal ossicular replacement prosthesis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 270, 37–44 (2013).

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  • Avian middle ear
  • Bionic columellar prosthesis
  • Tympanoplasty