Long-term Symptom-specific Outcomes for Patients With Petrous Apex Cholesterol Granulomas: Surgery Versus Observation

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Review long-term symptom-specific outcomes for petrous apex cholesterol granulomas (PACG).

Study Design:

Retrospective review.


Tertiary center.


Adults with PACG were assessed from 1998 to 2015.


Symptomatic patients were stratified into surgical and observation subgroups.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Resolution rates of individual symptoms and chief complaints were assessed as was the impact of surgical approach and stent usage on symptom-specific outcomes. Symptom recurrence rates were tabulated.


Twenty-seven patients were included whose mean age was 44.8 ± 3.3 years. Fourteen and 13 patients stratified into the surgical and observation subgroups respectively. The surgical subgroup trended toward a longer follow-up period (mean 68.5 vs. 33.8 mo; p = 0.06). Overall, the most frequent symptoms encountered were headache (52%), aural fullness, tinnitus, and vestibular complaints (41% each). Visual complaints, retro-orbital pain, and cranial neuropathies were less common (18%, 15%, 11%). The overall symptom resolution rate was significantly higher in the surgical subgroup (48% vs. 26%, p = 0.03). In both subgroups, headache, retro-orbital pain, and visual complaints had the highest resolution rates. Vestibular complaints and tinnitus were very unlikely to resolve. Significantly more patients in the surgical group resolved their chief complaints (70% vs. 25%, p = 0.02). While approach type and stent usage did not significantly influence symptom outcomes, all patients with symptom recurrence (11%) were initially managed without stents.


Symptom-specific outcomes were better in patients managed surgically for PACG. Individual symptom resolution rates were highly variable. Some symptoms were refractory regardless of management strategy. Surgical approach and stent usage did not significantly influence symptom outcomes.

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