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Stroke. 1987 Jan-Feb;18(1):252-6.

Pulsatile tinnitus.


Pulse-synchronous tinnitus suggests a vascular etiology and is deemed rare by the otologic literature. During the period 1978-1985 we evaluated 20 patients with the sole or initial complaint of pulsatile tinnitus. Fourteen patients had objective pulsatile tinnitus, perceived by the patient and the examiner alike, and 6 had subjective pulsatile tinnitus, perceived by the patient only. Angiographic findings in patients with objective pulsatile tinnitus included dural or pial arteriovenous malformations, occlusive disease of the intra- or extracranial carotid arteries from atherosclerosis or dissection, panarterial ectasia, and venous sinus thrombosis. Most of the patients with subjective pulsatile tinnitus had normal evaluations, but other possible causes of subjective pulsatile tinnitus included a carotid occlusion and pseudotumor cerebri. Pulsatile tinnitus is an uncommon symptom produced by a variety of causes. Given the abnormalities present in our series, we would recommend intraarterial digital subtraction angiography or conventional angiography in the evaluation of objective pulsatile tinnitus and intravenous digital subtraction angiography for subjective pulsatile tinnitus. Increased intracranial pressure must also be considered.

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