Eagle's syndrome (elongated styloid process)

South Med J. 1997 Mar;90(3):331-4. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199703000-00014.


Eagle's syndrome occurs when an elongated styloid process or calcified stylohyoid ligament causes recurrent throat pain or foreign body sensation, dysphagia, or facial pain. Additional symptoms may include neck or throat pain with radiation to the ipsilateral ear. In adults, the styloid process is approximately 2.5 cm long, and its tip is located between the external and internal carotid arteries, just lateral to the tonsillar fossa. It may develop inflammatory changes or impinge on the adjacent arteries or sensory nerve endings, leading to the symptoms described. Diagnosis can usually be made on physical examination by digital palpation of the styloid process in the tonsillar fossa, which exacerbates the pain. In addition, relief of symptoms with injection of an anesthetic solution into the tonsillar fossa is highly suggestive of this diagnosis. Radiographic workup should include anterior-posterior and lateral skull films. The treatment of Eagle's syndrome is primarily surgical. The styloid process can be shortened through an intraoral or external approach. We present two cases and review the literature.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Diseases / diagnosis
  • Bone Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Diseases / surgery
  • Calcinosis / diagnosis
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Facial Pain / diagnosis
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / pathology
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology
  • Palpation
  • Pharyngitis / diagnosis
  • Pharynx
  • Radiography
  • Syndrome
  • Temporal Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Bone / pathology*
  • Temporal Bone / surgery