Membrane Stress Proclivities in the Mammalian Labyrinth


Int. Arch. Otorhinolaryngol.




Introduction The membranes of the inferior division of the labyrinth in some mammals appear more vulnerable to hydropic distention than those of the superior division. This finding in guinea pigs, cats, and humans has been attributed to the evidently thinner membranes with implied higher stress levels. Objective The objective of this study is to identify other configurational features, if any, that may contribute to membrane stress proclivity and therefore might act to augment or ameliorate stress in the several chambers of the membranous labyrinth. Methods Stress proclivity can be investigated using shell theory to analyze a geometric model of the labyrinthine membranes in mammals. Such an approach can provide the necessary mathematical descriptions of stress in each chamber of the labyrinth. Results Stress proclivity depends on three physical features: membrane thickness, radial size, and chamber shape. Lower stress proclivities are projected for smaller chambers with thick, highly synclastic membranes. Higher stress levels are projected for larger chambers with thin, flat, or anticlastic membranes. Conclusions In the mammalian labyrinth, pars superior chambers exhibit permutations of membrane thickness, size, and favorable shapes that reduce stress proclivity. In contrast, the pars inferior chambers are characterized by thin membranes with flat contours and adverse shapes that make them especially vulnerable to hydropic distention.

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