Change of somatosensory function of the tongue caused by chorda tympani nerve disorder after stapes surgery

Laryngoscope. 2018 Mar;128(3):701-706. doi: 10.1002/lary.26598. Epub 2017 Apr 11.


Objectives: Patients after middle ear surgery often complain of taste disturbance and a lingual numbness. The purpose of this study was to objectively assess changes in the somatosensation of the tongue and taste function in patients undergoing stapes surgery.

Study design: Prospective study.

Methods: Symptoms of taste disturbance and tongue numbness after surgery were investigated before and after surgery in 41 patients (13 males, 28 females; mean age 41.8 years) who underwent stapes surgery. Twenty-eight patients (9 males, 19 females; mean age 43.1 years) underwent sensory and taste function tests before and after surgery. Sensory function of the tongue was measured at the operated side and the nonoperated side using the 2-point discrimination test and an electrostimulator test. Taste function was assessed with electrogustometry (EGM).

Results: The chorda tympani nerve (CTN) was gently touched or stretched in all patients. Postoperative thresholds on the operated side were significantly higher than preoperative thresholds in all tests in the patients who underwent all three kinds of tests. Tongue somatosensory symptoms improved significantly earlier than the taste disturbance postoperatively, and the sensory thresholds returned to the baseline along with recovery of symptoms.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that dysfunction of the CTN occurred following surgery even when the CTN was preserved, and that the sensory nerve threshold of the tongue correlated with the symptom of lingual numbness. The CTN may play a role not only in taste function but also in the somatosensory function of the tongue.

Level of evidence: 4. Laryngoscope, 128:701-706, 2018.

Keywords: Chorda tympani nerve; electrogustometry; electrostimulator; somatosensory function of the tongue; stapes surgery; taste disturbance; tongue numbness; trigeminal sensation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / injuries*
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / physiopathology
  • Dysgeusia / diagnosis
  • Dysgeusia / etiology
  • Dysgeusia / physiopathology*
  • Facial Nerve Diseases / diagnosis
  • Facial Nerve Diseases / etiology*
  • Facial Nerve Diseases / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Stapes Surgery / adverse effects*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology*
  • Tongue / innervation*
  • Tongue / physiopathology