Jugular foramen paragangliomas: management, outcome and avoidance of complications in a series of 75 cases

Neurosurg Rev (2012) 35:185–194. DOI 10.1007/s10143-011-0346-1

Jugular foramen paragangliomas are rare skull base tumours posing multiple complex diagnostic and management problems. We did a study to evaluate surgical technique, outcome and complications in 75 cases of tumours treated by multidisciplinary approach (i.e. combined neurosurgery, neuroradiology, ear, nose and throat surgery and intensive care unit team).
Methods: Retrospective study on 75 consecutive patients with jugular foramen paragangliomas treated surgically from 1989 to 2005. Preoperative balloon occlusion test was performed in all patients as well as embolization (100%). A combined limited infratemporal and juxtacondylar approach was used in all patients.
Results: Gross total resection was achieved in 59 patients (78.7%). The most common complication was represented by lower cranial nerve deficits in five patients (6.6%), which was only temporary in three. Postoperative facial nerve weakness occurred in five cases (6.6%) and resolved in three of them. The remaining two patients underwent facial nerve reconstruction by hypoglossal/facial nerve anastomosis. Four patients (5.3%) had a postoperative cerebrospinal fluid leak, which was successfully treated by lumbar drainage. Two patients (2.7%) died because of complications related to surgical injury of lower cranial nerves: one patient developed aspiration pneumonia and septicemia and the second one developed a large cervicobulbar hematoma that led to severe respiratory distress and ultimately global cerebral hypoxia.
Conclusion: Paragangliomas are rare and complex skull base lesions that may be managed with low morbidity and mortality if a multidisciplinary approach is considered. Facial and lower cranial nerve postoperative deficits can be limited.