Venous vascular malformation of the facial nerve

Venous vascular malformations of the facial nerve, previously known as facial nerve haemangiomas, are rare benign vascular malformations of the facial nerve usually presenting as a facial nerve palsy, which can be rapid onset mimicking a Bell palsy

As they do not appear to have clinical course, or histological features of haemangiomas, the nomenclature was changed 5

These lesions typically affect middle aged patients and are very slow growing.

At presentation they are usually ~1 cm in size, and typically cause significant symptoms despite their small size. This is another distinguishing feature from schwannomas which despite larger size often have few symptoms. Typically they present with facial nerve palsy which can be rapid onset mimicking a Bell palsy. Sensory neural hearing loss (SNHL) and tinnitus can also be presentations.

It has a predilection for the region around the geniculate ganglion (although even more rarely seen in the IAC), compared to schwannomas which can occur anywhere along the nerve. 

The bony margins are indistinct, as although the malformation is localised it is unencapulated, enabling them to be distinguished from schwannomas, which like schwannomas elsewhere (think jugular foramen lesions) have well defined remodeled margins.

Both capillary and cavernous sub types are identified histologically and both types can be seen within the one tumour.

A variant is the ossifying haemangioma of the facial nerve, which has a distinctive appearance; radiating outwards from its center is a 'spoke wheel' or 'honeycomb' arrangement of ossification.

Reported signal characteristics of the region includes:

  • T1: iso or slightly hypo intense
  • T2: hyper intense
  • T1 C+ (Gd): intense contrast enhancement
  • content pending

Imaging differential considerations include

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Article information

rID: 1322
Tag: cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Haemangioma of facial nerve
  • Facial nerve hemangioma
  • Hemangioma of facial nerve
  • Hemangioma of the facial nerve
  • Facial nerve haemangiomas
  • Facial nerve hemangiomas
  • Haemangioma of the facial nerve
  • Facial nerve haemangioma
  • Venous vascular malformations of the facial nerve

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