One of the biggest considerations in our decision for Harry to have cochlear implants was, of course, the surgery. The process can take as long as 8 hours for bilateral implants and for a baby that is a very long time to be under anaesthetic. There was no doubt in our minds that we wanted Harry to have cochlear implants so we knew the surgery was something we needed to get our heads around pretty quickly.
On the lead up to the operation I gathered as much information as I could about the surgery and what it involved. I asked every question that popped into my head and Googled away until I felt satisfied that I knew what to expect when putting a young infant through this procedure. I asked how long the operation would take, if I could stay with him until he was asleep and how he would would feel afterwards. I was also informed about an extra vaccination that Harry would need to have prior to the operation that I hadn’t been aware of before, as meningitis is one of the risks of this type of surgery. Although the risk is very small it was good to know that he could have an injection to help prevent it happening. There is some more information about the vaccination below.
I felt like if I knew as much as I could then I would be prepared for how I would feel during the surgery and how he would be feeling once it was done and he had come around from the anaesthetic, good or bad.
I found out that cochlear implants are routinely straightforward, typically taking two to four hours. The surgery is minimally invasive, and performed thousands of times per year across the world. In fact, children usually go home the same or very next day and resume their regular activities within a couple of days. Patients spend additional time in the preparation and recovery areas because the procedure is done under general anesthesia.
Some extra information from our cochlear implant provider, Advanced Bionics:
Cochlear implant candidates and recipients should consult their primary care physician and implanting surgeon regarding vaccination status for protection against meningitis. Meningitis is a known risk of inner ear surgery and candidates and recipients should be appropriately aware of this risk.
Because children with cochlear implants are at increased risk for pneumococcal meningitis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that they receive pneumococcal vaccination on the same schedule recommended for other groups at increased risk for invasive pneumococcal disease. Recommendations for the timing and type of pneumococcal vaccination vary with age and vaccination history, and should be discussed with a health care provider.
If you want more information about what to expect during a cochlear implant surgery and initial stimulation, you can download this PDF:
Harry gowned up for surgery