Eagle syndrome is characterized by recurrent pain in the middle part of the throat (oropharynx) and face. "Classic Eagle syndrome" is typically seen in patients after throat trauma or tonsillectomy. Symptoms include dull and persistent throat pain that may radiate to the ear and worsen with rotation of the head. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, feeling that there is something stuck in the throat, tinnitus, and neck or facial pain. A second form of Eagle syndrome unrelated to tonsillectomy causes compression of the vessel that carries blood to the brain, neck, and face (carotid artery). This form can cause headache.
Eagle syndrome is due to a calcified stylohyoid ligament or an elongated styloid process. The styloid process is a pointed part of the temporal bone that serves as an anchor point for several muscles associated with the tongue and larynx.
The mainstay treatment for Eagle syndrome is surgery to shorten the styloid process (styloidectomy). Medical management may include the use of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, antidepressants, and/or steroids. The overall success rate for treatment (medical or surgical) is about 80%.
Last updated: 4/18/2017
How might Eagle syndrome be treated?
The mainstay treatment for Eagle syndrome is surgery to shorten the styloid process (styloidectomy). Traditionally, this surgery has been done using either an intraoral (through the mouth) or extraoral (through the neck) approach.
The intraoral approach usually requires tonsillectomy, and access to the styloid process is limited. There is also risk of injury to major vessels. However, this method reportedly is safe, more simple, and an external scar is avoided.
The extraoral approach may provide better exposure of the process and its surrounding structures. However, this approach results in a scar, requires going through connective tissue and may carry an increased risk of trauma to surrounding structures.
In recent years, more minimally-invasive techniques have been used for head and neck surgery. Some patients with Eagle syndrome have undergone an endoscope-assisted approach. An endoscope is a long, thin tube with a camera attached at the end. According to the authors of a study published in 2017, this approach reportedly has the benefits of providing direct surgical access, satisfactory exposure, and minimal invasion.
Medical management of Eagle syndrome may include the use of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, antidepressants, and/or steroids for pain.
The overall success rate for treatment (medical or surgical) is about 80%.
People with questions about personal treatment options and recommendations for Eagle syndrome should speak with their doctor.
Last updated: 4/18/2017
We hope this information is helpful. We strongly recommend you discuss this information with your doctor. If you still have questions, please
Chen R, Liang F, Han P, Cai Q, Yu S, Huang X. Endoscope-Assisted Resection of Elongated Styloid Process Through a Retroauricular Incision: A Novel Surgical Approach to Eagle Syndrome. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. January 26, 2017; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28215854.