Peripheral Vestibular Organ Degeneration After Temporal Bone Fracture: A Human Otopathology Study

Laryngoscope. 2020 Mar;130(3):752-760. doi: 10.1002/lary.28010. Epub 2019 May 10.


Objectives/hypothesis: Vestibular symptoms are a common sequela of temporal bone fractures (TBFs). The mechanisms of injury to the peripheral vestibular system following TBF, however, are not well described. Herein, we aimed to investigate the histopathology of the peripheral vestibular system in patients who sustained TBFs.

Study design: Retrospective human specimen analysis.

Methods: Specimens from the National Temporal Bone Pathology Registry with (cases) and without (controls) TBFs were evaluated. Specimens were analyzed by light microscopy for vestibular hair cell and/or dendritic degeneration, presence of endolymphatic hydrops, blockage of the endolymphatic duct, and number of Scarpa ganglion cells (ScGCs) in the superior and inferior vestibular nerves.

Results: Seven temporal bones (TBs) from five individuals with TBFs, and seven TBs from six age-matched individuals without a history of head injury met inclusion and exclusion criteria. All fractures involved the otic capsule. Severe degeneration of the cristae was identified in the semicircular canals in all TBF cases. The utricular and saccular maculae showed mild to severe degeneration in the TBF cases. Vestibular hydrops (n = 2 TBs) and blockage of the endolymphatic duct (n = 3 TBs) were also present in the TBF cases. There was a decrease of 52.6% in the mean total ScGC count in the TBF cases (n = 3 TBs) compared to age-matched controls (n = 7 TBs, P = .015). There was a mean loss of 53% of the ScGCs in the superior vestibular nerve and a mean loss of 52.3% of the ScGCs in the inferior vestibular nerve compared to age-matched controls (P = .033 and P = .021, respectively).

Conclusions: In a cohort of patients with TBFs, there were distinct peripheral vestibular changes including reduction of ScGCs.

Level of evidence: NA Laryngoscope, 130:752-760, 2020.

Keywords: Temporal bone fracture; histopathology; peripheral vestibular system; temporal bone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / complications*
  • Fractures, Bone / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Temporal Bone / injuries*
  • Temporal Bone / pathology
  • Vestibular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vestibular Diseases / pathology
  • Young Adult