Venous vascular malformation of the facial nerve
Venous vascular malformations of the facial nerve, previously known as facial nerve hemangiomas, are rare benign vascular malformations of the facial nerve usually presenting as a facial nerve palsy, which can be rapid in onset mimicking a Bell palsy.
As they do not appear to have the clinical course or histological features of hemangiomas, 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 of rapid onset mimicking a Bell palsy. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can also be presentations.
The bony margins are indistinct, as although the malformation is localized it is unencapsulated, enabling them to be distinguished from schwannomas, which like schwannomas elsewhere (think jugular foramen lesions) have well defined remodeled margins.
Both capillary and cavernous subtypes are identified histologically and both types can be seen within the one tumor. A variant is the ossifying hemangioma of the facial nerve, which has a distinctive appearance; radiating outwards from its center is a 'spoke wheel' or 'honeycomb' arrangement of ossification.
There is an osteolytic lesion centered in the facial nerve canal with irregular and amorphous margins. The presence of internal honeycomb ossific matrix, present in half of cases, is pathognomonic 6.
Reported signal characteristics of the region include:
- T1: iso or slightly hypointense
- T2: hyperintense
- T1 C+ (Gd): intense contrast enhancement
Treatment and prognosis
Definitive treatment requires surgical resection.
Imaging differential considerations include:
- 1. Balkany T, Fradis M, Jafek BW et-al. Hemangioma of the facial nerve: role of the geniculate capillary plexus. Skull Base Surg. 1991;1 (1): 59-63. - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
- 2. Friedman O, Neff BA, Willcox TO et-al. Temporal bone hemangiomas involving the facial nerve. Otol. Neurotol. 2002;23 (5): 760-6. Otol. Neurotol. (link) - Pubmed citation
- 3. JD Swatrz, HR Harnsberger "Imaging of the Temporal Bone" Thieme
- 4. Chan EH, Tan HM, Tan TY. Facial palsy from temporal bone lesions. Ann. Acad. Med. Singap. 2005;34 (4): 322-9. Ann. Acad. Med. Singap. (link) - Pubmed citation
- 5. Benoit MM, North PE, McKenna MJ et-al. Facial nerve hemangiomas: vascular tumors or malformations?. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;142 (1): 108-14. doi:10.1016/j.otohns.2009.10.007 - Pubmed citation
- 6. Mijangos SV, Meltzer DE. Case 171: facial nerve hemangioma. (2011) Radiology. 260 (1): 296-301. doi:10.1148/radiol.11092009 - Pubmed