Cochlear pharmacokinetics with local inner ear drug delivery using a three-dimensional finite-element computer model

Stefan K. Plontke, Norbert Siedow, Raimund Wegener, Hans Peter Zenner, Alec N. Salt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: Cochlear fluid pharmacokinetics can be better represented by three-dimensional (3D) finite-element simulations of drug dispersal. Background: Local drug deliveries to the round window membrane are increasingly being used to treat inner ear disorders. Crucial to the development of safe therapies is knowledge of drug distribution in the inner ear with different delivery methods. Computer simulations allow application protocols and drug delivery systems to be evaluated, and may permit animal studies to be extrapolated to the larger cochlea of the human. Methods: A finite-element 3D model of the cochlea was constructed based on geometric dimensions of the guinea pig cochlea. Drug propagation along and between compartments was described by passive diffusion. To demonstrate the potential value of the model, methylprednisolone distribution in the cochlea was calculated for two clinically relevant application protocols using pharmacokinetic parameters derived from a prior one-dimensional (1D) model. In addition, a simplified geometry was used to compare results from 3D with 1D simulations. Results: For the simplified geometry, calculated concentration profiles with distance were in excellent agreement between the 1D and the 3D models. Different drug delivery strategies produce very different concentration time courses, peak concentrations and basal-apical concentration gradients of drug. In addition, 3D computations demonstrate the existence of substantial gradients across the scalae in the basal turn. Conclusion: The 3D model clearly shows the presence of drug gradients across the basal scalae of guinea pigs, demonstrating the necessity of a 3D approach to predict drug movements across and between scalae with larger cross-sectional areas, such as the human, with accuracy. This is the first model to incorporate the volume of the spiral ligament and to calculate diffusion through this structure. Further development of the 3D model will have to incorporate a more accurate geometry of the entire inner ear and incorporate more of the specific processes that contribute to drug removal from the inner ear fluids. Appropriate computer models may assist in both drug and drug delivery system design and can thus accelerate the development of a rationale-based local drug delivery to the inner ear and its successful establishment in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
JournalAudiology and Neurotology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Computer simulations
  • Drug delivery
  • Inner ear
  • Intratympanic
  • Modeling
  • Pharmacokinetics


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