Tumor - temporal bone

Alternative names 
Tumor - Jacobson’s nerve; Jacobson’s nerve tumor; Glomus jugulare tumor

Definition
A glomus jugulare tumor is a small, ball-like swelling of a part of the jugular vein (a large vein in the neck) or along Jacobson’s nerve in the temporal bone of the skull. Both of these areas contain glomus bodies, which are nerve fibers that normally respond to change in body temperature or blood pressure.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are no known risk factors for developing glomus jugulare tumors. The cause is also unknown.

Symptoms
These tumors arise in the bones of the skull where nerves are located. As a result, symptoms of the tumor are often weakness or paralysis of the face (cranial nerve palsies). They can also cause hoarseness and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Hearing may also be affected.

Signs and tests

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

     
  • CT scan  
  • MRI scan  
  • Cerebral angiography (injection of dye so that the blood vessels of the neck and brain can be seen with x-rays)

Treatment

Glomus jugulare tumors are rarely malignant, which means that they do not tend to spread to other parts of the body. However, because of their location, treatment may be necessary to relieve symptoms. The primary treatment is surgery.

Sometimes the tumor has to be treated before surgery with embolization (cutting off the blood supply) to shrink the blood supply to the tumor. The surgery is technically complex and is usually performed by both a neurosurgeon and a head and neck surgeon.

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

Expectations (prognosis)
Glomus jugulare tumors are usually well controlled with surgery or radiation. The cure rate is over 90%.

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

Calling your health care provider
Call your physician or 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 abnormality in your facial muscles.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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