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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Comprehensive Skull Base Program provides exceptional treatment for rare and complex skull base disorders such as glomus tumors, combining a multidisciplinary approach with the latest techniques and technology. 

Patients with glomus tumors have access to a world-class neurological surgery center, a state-of-the-art neuro intensive care unit, and coordinated post-surgical recovery services.

Accurate Diagnosis, Effective Treatment

Glomus tumor is a slow-growing, vascular tumor located at the skull base. Also known as a glomus jugulare, glomus tumor is the most common tumor of the temporal bone, which contains the middle and inner portions of the ear. 

Specialists at UT Southwestern are experts at diagnosing and treating glomus tumors, using the latest in image guidance and microsurgical techniques as well as rehabilitative services to restore quality of life for each patient. 

Symptoms of Glomus Tumors

Patients often hear their own heartbeat in the affected ear. Other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Hearing loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Facial weakness 

In rare cases, a patient will experience pain or bleeding from the ear.

Diagnosis

This tumor is often diagnosed through a simple physical exam. Physicians at UT Southwestern are experts at distinguishing glomus tumor from glomus tympanicum, another common tumor affecting the ear that can have an identical appearance to the glomus jugulare tumor. 

Glomus jugulare tumors grow on the jugular bulb, while glomus tympanicum tumors grow in the middle ear space. Distinguishing these tumors can typically be done through a detailed ear microscope exam or with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan. This distinction is important because the two types of tumor require different treatment.

Treatment for Glomus Tumors

Treatment of a glomus tumor depends on a patient’s age, overall health, symptoms, and the size of the tumor. Physicians at UT Southwestern collaborate to determine what approach will work best for each patient. 

Treatment plans can include:

  • Observation: Monitoring the tumor using serial imaging studies is often recommended for patients of advanced age, those who have multiple health issues, or those who prefer this option.
  • Partial or total surgical removal: This approach is typically recommended in younger patients. Partial removal can be used when the lower cranial nerves are intact, while total removal is usually attempted when the nerves are nonfunctional.
  • External beam radiation: This treatment is conducted five days a week for several weeks to shrink or destroy the tumor.
  • Stereotactic radiation therapy: This treatment can be completed in one day or over a three-day period and can shrink or destroy the tumor.
  • Combination: Depending on each patient’s specific needs, a combination of surgery and conventional or stereotactic radiation therapy might be recommended. 

Recovery depends on the location, size, and invasiveness of the tumor. Specialists at UT Southwestern work with each patient to address any postoperative issues, such as:

  • Hoarseness: Whether from the tumor or treatment, hoarseness can be improved through speech therapy, vocal cord injection therapy, or surgical repositioning of the vocal cord.
  • Shoulder pain: Caused by the effect of the tumor on spinal accessory nerves, shoulder pain often responds well to physical therapy.
  • Hearing loss: In some cases, hearing loss improves after the tumor is removed. If it doesn’t, several types of hearing aids can also help.
  • Swallowing problems: These issues can result from the tumor or the treatment, and they can be improved with speech therapy. 

Research and Clinical Trials

Patients also benefit from the leading research conducted at UT Southwestern, which often includes clinical trials offered at few other centers in the country and which helps speed better treatment to patients. 

Glomus Tumor Patient Information Sheet

For more detailed, technical information about glomus jugulare, please read our glomus jugulare patient information sheet (PDF).

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