The administration of drugs to the inner ear via the round window membrane is becoming more widely used for both clinical and experimental purposes. The actual drug levels achieved in different regions of the inner ear by this method have not been established. The present study has made use of simulations of solute movements in the cochlear fluids to describe the distribution of a marker solute in the guinea pig cochlear fluid spaces. Simulation parameters were derived from experimental measurements using a marker ion, trimethylphenylammonium (TMPA). The distribution of this ion in the cochlea was monitored without volume disturbance using TMPA-selective microelectrodes sealed into the first and second turns of scala tympani (ST). TMPA was applied to perilymph by irrigation of the intact round window membrane with 2 mM solution. At the end of a 90 min application period, TMPA in the first turn, 1.4 mm from the base of ST, reached an average concentration of 330 μM (standard deviation (S.D.) 147 μM, n=8). TMPA in the second turn, 7.5 mm from the base of ST reached a concentration of 15 μM (S.D. 33 μM, n=5). The measured time courses of TMPA concentration change were interpreted using the Washington University Cochlear Fluids Simulator (V 1.4), a public-domain program available on the internet at http://oto.wustl.edu/cochlea/. Simulations with parameters producing concentration time courses comparable to those measured were: (1) round window permeability: 1.9×10-8 cm/s; (2) ST clearance half-time: 60 min; (3) longitudinal perilymph flow rate: 4.4 nl/min, directed from base to apex. Solute concentrations in apical regions of the cochlea were found to be determined primarily by the rate at which the solute diffuses, balanced by the rate of clearance of the solute from perilymph. Longitudinal perilymph flow was not an important factor in solute distribution unless the bony otic capsule was perforated, which rapidly caused substantial changes to solute distribution. This study demonstrates the basic processes by which substances are distributed in the cochlea and provides a foundation to understand how other applied substances will be distributed in the ear.
- Round window membrane