Imaging findings in Pulsatile Tinnitus

In this video, Dr. Katie Bailey talks about the imaging findings of pulsatile tinnitus. Pulsatile tinnitus is a ringing or abnormal sound sensation in the ear, but unlike the most common high frequency tinnitus, it has a pulsatile or wavelike quality that can often oscillate with arterial or venous flow. Causes of pulsatile tinnitus are unique and a different approach is warranted.

General approach and common causes. Some findings are best seen on CT and others are best seen on MRI. For this reason, you can often perform either a CT or MRI when you begin. There are a wide range of possible causes that can be categorized into neoplasm, arterial, and venous.

Paragangliomas. Glomus tympanicum, or tympanicum paraganglioma, is the most common middle ear tumor. These are more common in women than men. The most common location is along the floor of the middle ear adjacent to the cochlea. A glomus tympanicojugulare has features of both a jugular paraganglioma and tympanic paraganglioma, often connecting them. On MRI, these appear as permeative masses with bone destruction and enhancement.

Vestibular schwannoma is the most common tumor of the internal auditory canal and usually arise from the inferior vestibular nerve. These are solidly enhancing masses that extend from the IAC into the cerebellopontine angle.

Other tumors that can occur in or around the region include meningiomas and chondrosarcomas. Meningiomas are usually homogeneously enhancing and may have dural tails. Chondrosarcomas are often centered around the petroclival junction.

Arterial anomalies can also cause pulsatile tinnitus. If the internal carotid artery extends into the middle ear with no bony covering, this is an aberrant ICA. A persistent stapedial artery can also cause pulsatile tinnitus. The absence of foramen spinosum suggests a variant with no middle meningeal artery and a persistent stapedial artery.

Other vascular causes include vascular loops and microvascular compression of the nerves in the IAC. These can also cause pulsatile tinnitus, although the role of an AICA loop has been controversial. Other carotid abnormalities such as carotid stenosis, dissection, or fibromuscular dysplasia are also associated with tinnitus.Hemangiomas, or encapsulated venous vascular malformations, are benign vascular malformations which have high flow

Venous abnormalities can also cause tinnitus. These may be a more constant tinnitus or hum with less arterial type pulsation. Absence of the bony wall around the jugular bulb is known as a dehiscent jugular bulb. Venous diverticula from the sigmoid sinus or jugular vein are small outpouchings of the vein, almost like aneurysms. Other vascular malformations such as dural AV fistulas and arteriovenous malformations can cause tinnitus, and can be confirmed on vascular imaging studies. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension causes stenosis of the lateral transverse sinuses which can also cause tinnitus.

A few other things can cause pulsatile tinnitus, such as cotospongiosis/otosclerosis and Paget disease.

Overall, a number of things can cause pulsatile tinnitus, but a few of these things are more common so you should keep your eye out for them.

Thanks for checking out this quick video on the internal auditory canal. Be sure to check out the additional videos on other

head and neck topics.


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