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Neurosurg Focus. 2004 Aug 15;17(2):E5.

Jugular foramen tumors: diagnosis and treatment.

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Neurosurgery Department of Instituto de Neurologia de Curitiba, Brazil.



Jugular foramen tumors are rare skull base lesions that present diagnostic and complex management problems. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a series of patients with jugular foramen tumors who were surgically treated in the past 16 years, and to analyze the surgical technique, complications, and outcomes.


The authors retrospectively studied 102 patients with jugular foramen tumors treated between January 1987 and May 2004. All patients underwent surgery with a multidisciplinary method combining neurosurgical and ear, nose, and throat techniques. Preoperative embolization was performed for paragangliomas and other highly vascularized lesions. To avoid postoperative cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage and to improve cosmetic results, the surgical defect was reconstructed with specially developed vascularized flaps (temporalis fascia, cervical fascia, sternocleidomastoid muscle, and temporalis muscle). A saphenous graft bypass was used in two patients with tumor infiltrating the internal carotid artery (ICA). Facial nerve reconstruction was performed with grafts of the great auricular nerve or with 12th/seventh cranial nerve anastomosis. Residual malignant and invasive tumors were irradiated after partial removal. The most common tumor was paraganglioma (58 cases), followed by schwannomas (17 cases) and meningiomas (10 cases). Complete excision was possible in 45 patients (77.5%) with paragangliomas and in all patients with schwannomas. The most frequent and also the most dangerous surgical complication was lower cranial nerve deficit. This deficit occurred in 10 patients (10%), but it was transient in four cases. Postoperative facial and cochlear nerve paralysis occurred in eight patients (8%); spontaneous recovery occurred in three of them. In the remaining five patients the facial nerve was reconstructed using great auricular nerve grafts (three cases), sural nerve graft (one case), and hypoglossal/facial nerve anastomosis (one case). Four patients (4%) experienced postoperative CSF leakage, and four (4.2%) died after surgery. Two of them died of aspiration pneumonia complicated with septicemia. Of the remaining two, one died of pulmonary embolism and the other of cerebral hypoxia caused by a large cervical hematoma that led to tracheal deviation.


Paragangliomas are the most common tumors of the jugular foramen region. Surgical management of jugular foramen tumors is complex and difficult. Radical removal of benign jugular foramen tumors is the treatment of choice, may be curative, and is achieved with low mortality and morbidity rates. Larger lesions can be radically excised in one surgical procedure by using a multidisciplinary approach. Reconstruction of the skull base with vascularized myofascial flaps reduces postoperative CSF leaks. Postoperative lower cranial nerves deficits are the most dangerous complication.

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