The Potential for Preserved Cochleovestibular Function in the Setting of Prolonged Pneumolabyrinth

Joseph T. Breen, Alex D. Sweeney, Jeffrey T. Vrabec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective:To discuss the natural history and management of pneumolabyrinth, with particular attention to illustrative cases where hearing improved after a fluid-filled vestibule was restored.Patients:Adults at two academic medical centers with documented pneumolabyrinth on computed tomography (CT) imaging.Intervention:Middle ear surgery or observation.Main Outcome Measures:Cochlear and vestibular symptoms are reported. Inner ear function was documented with audiometry and vestibular testing. Resolution of pneumolabyrinth was documented on imaging for a subset of patients.Results:All patients presented with severe hearing loss following temporal bone fracture (three cases), penetrating trauma (one case), or stapedectomy (three cases). The radiographic finding was typically seen when imaging was obtained in the first few days after the injury. In two cases, vestibular symptoms resolved and partial recovery of hearing was seen despite a relatively long time interval between the inciting event and repair.Conclusion:Management of pneumolabyrinth is individualized based on the mechanism of injury, severity of symptoms, and timing of the imaging study. In most cases, the barrier between the middle ear and inner ear is expected to heal with rapid resolution of pneumolabyrinth. Late repair is demonstrated to result in favorable recovery in selected cases. The presence of air in the vestibule cannot be assumed to be indicative of irreversible inner ear damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)929-933
Number of pages5
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Cochlear implant
  • Complications
  • Computed tomography
  • Inner ear
  • Pneumolabyrinth
  • Radiology
  • Stapes surgery
  • Temporal bone trauma
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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