Today's cochlear implant surgery is a relatively minor operation of just a few hours. Children who have had the surgery have been known to go home immediately afterward, playing normally with minimal post-surgical effects. The surgery has the same normal risks associated with any surgery, and serious complications are rare. Meningitis has been shown to be a risk, and patients should take steps to reduce that risk, such as being vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers suggestions for reducing the risk of meningitis on their website.
Prior to SurgeryThe implant candidate is anesthetized with a general anesthesia.
Preparing for OperationSome hair is shaved off where the surgery will be done. This is usually a small amount of hair. The area shaved is behind the ear.
Making the CutAn incision is made and the skin and tissue flap is lifted so that the surgeon can drill into the skull bone behind the ear. A receiver is placed into the drilled-out area and an electrode array is inserted into the cochlea.
Closing UpThe surgical area is closed up with stitches (a small permanent scar may result) and the head is bandaged.
After SurgeryDepending on the length of the surgery and other factors, the patient may either be sent home shortly after surgery or have to stay in the hospital for a short while.
Recovery PeriodDuring the recuperation from the surgery, there may be minimal side effects such as temporary swelling. Side effects are minor if they do occur and are generally temporary: pain, changes in taste, dizziness, inflammation, bleeding, etc.
Illustrations of Cochlear Implant SurgeryAbout.com has an animated video of a cochlear implant surgery.
My Own Cochlear Implant SurgeryI received a cochlear implant myself in early 2008. I described the surgery experience in the article Cochlear Implants - My Cochlear Implant Story.
If you have pictures of your cochlear implant surgery to submit for a photo gallery of implant surgery, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.