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Aural fullness is a common symptom of middle ear diseases, most importantly Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). Yet, aural fullness may also be caused by inner ear disorders, such as hydropic ear diseases. Here, we report our experience with endolymphatic hydrops (EH) mimicking ETD. Furthermore, we review the literature related to (i) EH as a differential diagnosis of symptoms suggesting ETD and (ii) the pathophysiology and treatment of aural fullness due to inner ear disorders. We retrospectively included adult patients with aural fullness as chief complaint and radiographically diagnosed EH. Hearing and Eustachian tube function were assessed using audiometry, tympanometry, and tubomanometry. Primarily suspected ETD was treated by balloon dilatation of the Eustachian tube (BDET). The endolymphatic space of the inner ear was imaged using gadolinium-enhanced MRI (Gd-MRI) including a 3D-real inversion-recovery sequence after intravenous gadolinium administration. We report three affected ears of two patients (two females, age 42 and age 51) with aural fullness as chief complaint. Audiometry of main speech frequencies was normal in all affected ears. In one ear, there was a type A tympanogram and in two ears, there was a type B tympanogram. In both patients, medical treatment for ETD and BDET were unsuccessful. Gd-MRI of the inner ears revealed cochlear EH in 3/3 ears affected by aural fullness, but not in the unaffected ear. EH may underlay cases with aural fullness and could in these cases explain unsuccessful treatment for ETD. As ETD is often treated by invasive procedures, distinguishing ETD from EH as the underlying cause of aural fullness is important. Our findings raise the question whether Gd-MRI to rule out EH is indicated in patients with unexplained aural fullness, in particular after unsuccessful interventional treatment for ETD.


David Bächinger, Andreas H Eckhard, Christof Röösli, Dorothe Veraguth, Alexander Huber, Adrian Dalbert. Endolymphatic hydrops mimicking obstructive Eustachian tube dysfunction: preliminary experience and literature review. European archives of oto-rhino-laryngology : official journal of the European Federation of Oto-Rhino-Laryngological Societies (EUFOS) : affiliated with the German Society for Oto-Rhino-Laryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. 2021 Feb;278(2):561-565

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PMID: 32583181

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