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Original Article
February 2000

Metastases to Temporal Bones From Primary Nonsystemic Malignant Neoplasms

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota (Drs Gloria-Cruz, Paparella, and Adams and Mss Schachern and Fulton), and Minnesota Ear, Head, and Neck Clinic (Dr Paparella), Minneapolis, Minn.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000;126(2):209-214. doi:10.1001/archotol.126.2.209

Objectives  To compare histopathological and clinical findings of metastasis to the temporal bone with previous reports and to determine the prevalence of these metastases in patients with nonsystemic cancer.

Study Design  Retrospective.

Methods  Autopsy records of 864 patients were screened to select those with primary nondisseminated malignant neoplasms. These were evaluated histopathologically for metastasis to and site of involvement within the temporal bone, and histological characteristics of the tumor. Clinical records and autopsy reports were reviewed for demographic data, clinical course, otologic and vestibular manifestations, site of primary and its histological features, extent of metastasis, and mode of spread.

Results  Of 212 patients with primary nondisseminated malignant neoplasms, 47 had metastases to the temporal bone (76 temporal bones). Twenty different primary tumors had metastasized, most commonly breast cancer. Hearing loss was the most common otologic symptom (seen in 19 patients [40%]), while 17 (36%) had no otologic or vestibular symptoms. Temporal bone involvement was bilateral in 29 patients (62%). Most metastases to the temporal bone demonstrated hematogenous spread in 58 temporal bones (76.7%), and petrous apex was the most common site of metastases in 63 temporal bones (82.9%). Temporal bone metastases were not observed in cases where the primary tumor was adequately treated.

Conclusions  In the largest series to date, we found temporal bone metastases more frequently than previously reported. Absence of temporal bone involvement in cases in which the primary tumor was adequately treated stresses the need for early management of cancer. Metastatic disease must be considered as a cause of hearing loss in patients with a history of malignant neoplasm.