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Glomus jugulare tumor

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Tumor - Jacobson's nerve; Jacobson's nerve tumor; Tumor - temporal bone; Paraganglioma; Glomus tympanicum

Definition    Return to top

A glomus jugulare tumor is a tumor that can affect the ear, upper neck, base of the skull, and the surrounding blood vessels and nerves.

Causes    Return to top

A glomus jugulare tumor grows in the bones of the skull, where nerves are located. Specifically, the tumor occurs in part of the jugular vein (a large vein in the neck) or along a certain nerve on the side of the skull (temporal bone).

Both of these areas contain glomus bodies, which are nerve fibers that normally respond to change in body temperature or blood pressure. A person with a glomus jugulare tumor may have hearing loss, dizziness, or a feeling of a loud pulsing in the ear.

These tumors usually occur later in life, around age 60 or 70, but can appear at any age. The cause of a glomus jugulare tumor is unknown. Usually, there are no known risk factors. Glomus tumors have been associated with changes (mutations) in a gene responsible for succinate dehydrogenase (SDHD), an enzyme.

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Glomus jugulare tumors are diagnosed by physical examination and various scans including:

Treatment    Return to top

Glomus jugulare tumors are rarely cancerous and do not tend to spread to other parts of the body. However, treatment may be needed to relieve symptoms. The main treatment is surgery. Surgery is complex and usually done by both a neurosurgeon and a head and neck surgeon.

In some cases, a procedure called embolization is performed before surgery to shrink the tumor.

After surgery, radiation therapy may be used to treat any part of the tumor that could not be removed completely.

Glomus tumors can be treated with stereotactic radiosurgery.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Patients who have surgery or radiation tend to do well. More than 90% of those with glomus jugulare tumors are cured.

Possible Complications    Return to top

The most common complications are due to nerve damage, which may be caused by the tumor itself or damage during surgery. Nerve damage can lead to facial paralysis, hearing loss, and difficulty swallowing.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you notice a lump in your neck, if you are having difficulty with hearing or swallowing, or if you notice any problems with the muscles in your face.

References    Return to top

Goetz, CG. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2003: 1038.

Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St Louis, Mo; Mosby; 2005:3721-3724.

Update Date: 5/5/2009

Updated by: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolaryngologist, Private Practice, Denver, Colorado. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Previously reviewed by Stephen Grund, MD, PhD, Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the George Bray Cancer Center at New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (3/28/2008).

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