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Glomus tympanum tumor

Definition

A glomus tympanum tumor is a tumor of the middle ear and bone behind the ear (mastoid).

Alternative Names

Paraganglioma - glomus tympanum

Causes

A glomus tympanum tumor grows in the temporal bone of the skull, behind the eardrum (tympanic membrane).

This area contains nerve fibers (glomus bodies) that normally respond to changes in body temperature or blood pressure.

These tumors usually occur late in life, around age 60 or 70, but they can appear at any age.

The cause of a glomus tympanum tumor is unknown. Usually, there are no known risk factors. Glomus tumors have been associated with changes (mutations) in a gene responsible for the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase (SDHD).

Symptoms

  • Hearing problems or loss
  • Ringing in the ear (pulsatile tinnitus)
  • Weakness or loss of movement in the face (facial nerve palsy)

Exams and Tests

Glomus tympanum tumors are diagnosed by a physical examination. They may be seen in the ear or behind the eardrum.

Diagnosis also involves scans, including:

Treatment

Glomus tympanum tumors are rarely cancerous and do not tend to spread to other parts of the body. However, treatment may be needed to relieve symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Patients who have surgery tend to do well. More than 90% of people with glomus tympanum tumors are cured.

Possible Complications

The most common complication is hearing loss.

Nerve damage, which may be caused by the tumor itself or damage during surgery, rarely occurs. Nerve damage can lead to facial paralysis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you notice:

  • Difficulty with hearing or swallowing
  • Problems with the muscles in your face
  • Pulsing sensation in your ear

References

Rucker JC. Cranial neuropathies. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 74.

Marsh M, Jenkins H. Temporal bone neoplasms and lateral cranial base surgery. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2005:chap 162.


Review Date: 2/3/2014
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, FACS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Oglvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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