Prevalence, Surgical Management, and Audiologic Impact of Sigmoid Sinus Dehiscence Causing Pulsatile Tinnitus

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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the prevalence, surgical management, and audiologic impact of pulsatile tinnitus caused by sigmoid sinus dehiscence. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Retrospective chart review at a tertiary care hospital. PATIENTS: Adults with unilateral pulsatile tinnitus attributable to sigmoid sinus dehiscence who underwent resurfacing between January 2010 and January 2020. INTERVENTIONS: Transmastoid sigmoid resurfacing. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Resolution of pulsatile tinnitus; audiologic outcomes; complications; tinnitus etiologies. RESULTS: Nineteen patients (89.4% women) had surgery for suspected sigmoid sinus dehiscence. The mean dehiscence size was 6.1 mm (range, 1-10.7 mm). Eight patients had concurrent sigmoid sinus diverticulum and one patient also had jugular bulb dehiscence. Only two patients (10.5%) had the defect identified by radiology. Low-frequency pure-tone average, measured at frequencies of 250 and 500 Hz, showed a significant median improvement of 8.8 dB following resurfacing (18.8 dB versus 10.0 dB, p = 0.02). The majority of patients had complete resolution of pulsatile tinnitus (16/19, 84.2%). Of those without complete resolution, two patients had partial response and one patient had no improvement. There were no significant complications. Of 41 consecutively tracked patients with a pulsatile tinnitus chief complaint, sigmoid pathology represented 32% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: Sigmoid sinus dehiscence represents a common vascular cause of pulsatile tinnitus that, if properly assessed, may be amenable to surgical intervention. Sigmoid sinus resurfacing is safe, does not require decompression, and may improve low-frequency hearing. Radiographic findings of dehiscence are often overlooked without a high index of clinical suspicion. Its relationship with transverse sinus pathology and idiopathic intracranial hypertension remain unclear.

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