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Risk of Bacterial Meningitis in Children with Cochlear Implants

2002 Study of the Risk of Bacterial Meningitis in Children with Cochlear Implants

Many people have received cochlear implants to help them hear and communicate. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carried out a study in 2002 to learn more about a possible link between cochlear implants and bacterial meningitis in children with cochlear implants. This study had two purposes: (1) to find out how many children who had cochlear implants got bacterial meningitis afterwards, and (2) to find out if there are factors that might make it more likely that someone would get meningitis after getting a cochlear implant. The study found that bacterial meningitis occurred more often in children with all types of cochlear implants than in children of the same age group in the general population. It also found that children with an implant with a positioner (a piece used in some implant models) were much more likely to get bacterial meningitis than children with other types of cochlear implants. The implant with a positioner was voluntarily taken off the market by the manufacturer in July 2002.

2004 Study of the Risk of Bacterial Meningitis in Children with Cochlear Implants

After the 2002 study was completed, the FDA continued to receive reports of bacterial meningitis in children with cochlear implants. Because of these new reports, CDC and the FDA updated the 2002 study by looking at reports that were received up to 2 years after the 2002 study ended. The purpose of this updated study was to find out if children with cochlear implants continued to be more likely to get bacterial meningitis than children of the same age group in the general population even after they had their implant in place for more than 2 years. The study found that even two years after implant surgery, children with cochlear implants with a positioner were at greater risk of developing bacterial meningitis than children in the general US population.

CDC and FDA Recommendations

Recommendations from the CDC and FDA based on this study include:

  • Children should be up-to-date on vaccines at least 2 weeks before having a cochlear implant if they are not already up-to-date on these vaccinations.
  • Parents of children who have already received an implant should check with their child's doctor to ensure that their child is up-to-date on all vaccinations.
  • Doctors and other health care providers should review vaccination records of their patients who are cochlear implant recipients or candidates to ensure that they have received the recommended vaccinations based on the age-appropriate schedules for high risk people.
  • Parents of children with cochlear implants should be watchful for possible signs and symptoms of meningitis and seek prompt attention for any bacterial infection their child might have. Any questions parents have about their child's health should be discussed with the child's doctor.
  • Parents of children with cochlear implants should also be watchful for signs and symptoms of an ear infection, which can include ear pain, fever, and decreased appetite. Parents should seek prompt medical attention for these signs and symptoms.
  • Parents should talk about the risks and benefits of cochlear implants with their child's doctor and should discuss whether their child has certain medical conditions that might make him or her more likely to get meningitis.

Related Articles

Bacterial Meningitis Among Children With Cochlear Implants Beyond 24 Months After Implantation
Pediatrics; February 2006; Volume 117:2:284-289
K.R. Biernath, J. Reefhuis, C.G. Whitney, et al.
[Read article]

Risk of Bacterial Meningitis in Children with Cochlear Implants
New England Journal of Medicine; July 31, 2003; Volume 349:435-445
J. Reefhuis, M.A. Honein, C.G. Whitney, et al.
[Read article]

 

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