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Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2009 Feb;29(1):10-5.

Surgical management of parapharyngeal space tumours: results of 10-year follow-up.

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Department of Maxillo-Facial Surgery, San Filippo Neri Hospital, Rome, Italy.


Although primary tumours of the parapharyngeal space are rare and account for only 0.5% of head and neck neoplasms, they represent a formidable challenge to the surgeon both in the assessment of the preoperative condition and the appropriate surgical approach. This study is a retrospective review of the clinical records of 12 patients (8 male, 4 female, mean age 49 years), treated for parapharyngeal space tumours by the same surgical team from 1992 to 1998 and observed at follow-up for at least 10 years. Of these, 8 (66.6%) were benign and 4 (33.4%) malignant. Magnetic resonance imaging and fine-needle aspiration biopsy were performed as the preoperative evaluation in 8/12 cases. The positive predictive value of our fine-needle aspiration biopsy was 75% for benign tumours (3/4) and 100% (4/4) for malignant tumours. Different surgical approaches were used: transcervical-transmandibular in 5 cases (41.6%); transparotid-transcervical in 4 patients (33.4%); transoral in 2 patients (16.6%) with a small pleomorphic adenoma of the deep lobe of parotid, and in the last case (8.4%), transcervical surgery was performed for papillary thyroid carcinoma metastasis. Post-operative complications occurred in 3/12 patients: two developed Horner's syndrome and one patient presented a temporary marginal mandibular of facial nerve dysfunction. Post-operative radiotherapy was performed in 3/4 patients on account of malignancy. Each patient underwent a follow-up protocol of clinical controls and ultrasonography every 6 months, computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging once a year for 10 years. Eleven patients (91.4%) were still disease free after 10-year follow-up. One patient with a recurrent parotid gland adenocarcinoma died of distant metastasis 4 years after parapharyngeal space surgery. These 12 parapharyngeal space tumours were treated with use of one of the various surgical approaches described in relation to the histopathological diagnosis (benign or malignant), to the side (prestyloid or poststyloid) and to the size (+/-4 cm) of the neoplasia and, moreover, were observed at long-term follow-up. Results of personal experience in the treatment of the tumours of the parapharyngeal space confirm the necessity to follow a careful preoperative diagnostic outline that must be taken advantage of the study for imaging (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging) and of cytology, in order to plan surgical treatment with a safe approach and that reduces complications, aesthetic-functional damages and risk of recurrence.


Mandibulotomy; Parapharyngeal space; Parapharyngeal tumour; Parotid; Pleomorphic adenoma; Surgical approach

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