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Am J Otol. 1999 Mar;20(2):261-76; discussion 276-9.

A critical appraisal of spontaneous perilymphatic fistulas of the inner ear.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.

Erratum in

  • Am J Otol 1999 Jul;20(4):560.



This article provides an overview of relevant data supporting and refuting the existence of spontaneous perilymph fistula, as well as critically reviewing the literature pertaining to their evaluation and management.


Sources used were relevant English language clinical and basic science publications.


A Medline search dating back to 1966 for articles concerning perilymphatic fistula, including both human and animal data, was performed. Articles were included if they contained relevant data or were significant reviews of the subject. A traditional bibliography search was then completed to acquire articles missed by the computerized search, including works published before 1966.


The data from each publication were critically reviewed. Emphasis on understanding the clinical features of surgically created perilymph fistulas was used to more objectively assess the data regarding spontaneous perilymph fistulas.


The data were not amenable to formal meta-analysis or valid data summarization; however, when possible trends and contrasting data were emphasized.


Spontaneous perilymph fistulas are very rare occurrences and the majority are likely incited by a pressure-altering event. Current methodologies do not provide sufficient specificity and sensitivity to accurately diagnose perilymph fistulas. The results of endoscopic studies of the middle ear in the evaluation of perilymphatic fistula suggest a low incidence compared with the large number of fistulas reported in the literature. A high index of suspicion must be maintained, and appropriate preoperative counseling should reflect the current controversies. Questions must continue to be asked and further research pursued to help distinguish reality from myth.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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