Enlargement of the cochlear aqueduct: fact or fiction?

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1993 Jul;109(1):14-25. doi: 10.1177/019459989310900104.


Enlargement of the cochlear aqueduct (CA) is often mentioned in the otologic literature, usually in its purported association with sensory hearing loss, stapes gusher, and transotic cerebrospinal fluid leak. In CT scans of 100 ears, the diameter of the CA medial aperture was found to be highly variable, ranging from 0 to 11 mm, with a mean of 4.5 mm. In contrast, the otic capsule segment was very narrow in every case. It could be visualized in only 56% of cases, none of which exceeded 2 mm in diameter. Several published reports of supposed CA enlargement presented images of a dilated medial aperture that was well within the range of normal variability according to the present study. In a thorough review of the literature on radiology of the CA, we were unable to find a single published image that convincingly demonstrated enlargement of the otic capsule portion. As radiographic CA enlargement has not been convincingly reported to date, it appears to be an exceedingly rare or perhaps even nonexistent malformation. It is important to recognize than even a radiographically normal CA may be hyperpatent. It is theoretically possible for increased fluid flow to result from either deficiencies in intraluminal membrane baffles or subtle canal enlargement beneath the resolution limits of CT scanning. However, as fluid flow through a tube is regulated by its narrowest point, it is extremely improbable that stapes gusher, transotic CSF leak, and vigorous perilymphatic fistula are generated by the CA when CT scans show any portion of it to be very narrow. A substantial body of evidence points to a deficient partition between the internal auditory canal and inner ear as causative in such cases. We propose that the criteria for the diagnosis of CA enlargement on high-resolution CT scan be a diameter exceeding 2 mm throughout its course from the posterior fossa to the vestibule.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anthropometry
  • Causality
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Otorrhea / epidemiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Otorrhea / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cochlear Aqueduct / abnormalities*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnostic imaging
  • Congenital Abnormalities / embryology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / pathology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / physiopathology
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / diagnostic imaging
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / epidemiology
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / pathology
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / epidemiology
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / etiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed