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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 131-133  

Elongated styloid process: A study

1 Department of Anatomy, Sree Balaji Dental College, Bharat University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Oral Pathology, Sree Balaji Dental College, Bharat University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Oral Medicine, Sree Balaji Dental College, Bharat University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission31-Oct-2014
Date of Decision31-Oct-2014
Date of Acceptance09-Nov-2014
Date of Web Publication30-Apr-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jinu Merlin Koshy
Department of Anatomy, Sree Balaji Dental College, Bharat University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-7406.155861

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The styloid process (SP) on the temporal bone is a highly variable formation. The normal length of the SP ranges from 20 to 30 mm. In spite of its being normally distributed in the population, SPs could be divided into two groups - short SPs with >20 mm and long SPs with <20 mm in length. The SP is often denoted as elongated when it is longer than 30 mm or 33 mm. These dimensions, based on early reports, do not respect the natural variation of the SP. The aim of this study is to investigate the natural variation of the length of the SP.

Keywords: Eagle′s syndrome, elongated styloid process, styloid process

How to cite this article:
Koshy JM, Narayan M, Narayanan S, Priya B S, Sumathy G. Elongated styloid process: A study. J Pharm Bioall Sci 2015;7, Suppl S1:131-3

How to cite this URL:
Koshy JM, Narayan M, Narayanan S, Priya B S, Sumathy G. Elongated styloid process: A study. J Pharm Bioall Sci [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Aug 14];7, Suppl S1:131-3. Available from:

Styloid process (SP) is derived from the Greek word stylos, meaning a pillar. This structure is a long, cylindrical, cartilaginous bone located on the inferior aspect of temporal bone, posterior to the mastoid apex, anteromedial to the stylomastoid foramen, and lateral to the jugular foramen and carotid canal. Medial to the SP is the internal jugular vein along with cranial nerves VII, IX, X, XI, and XII. The tip of the SP is close to the external carotid artery laterally while medially, it is in close proximity to the internal carotid artery and accompanying sympathetic chain. It forms with the stylohyoid apparatus along with stylohyoid ligament and a small horn of the hyoid bone. Three muscles originate from the SP: The styloglossus, stylohyoid, and stylopharyngeus. The styloid and the stylomandibular ligaments are also attached to the SP. [1],[2]

Background and theory

Eagle's syndrome occurs due to elongation of the SP or calcification of the stylohyoid ligament, which may produce a pain sensation due to the pressure exerted on various structures in the vicinity.

The SP is a cylindrical bony projection arising from the lower surface of the petrous portion of the temporal bone. It lies in front of the stylomastoid foramen and its tip projects anteriorly and inferiorly between internal and external carotid arteries and also laterally to the pharyngeal wall and tonsillar fossa. The SP provides the origin attachments for several muscles such as the styloglossus, stylohyoid and stylopharyngeus muscles and for ligaments such as the stylohyoid and stylomandibular ligaments. [3] Important structures surrounding the SP include facial and hypoglossal nerves, the occipital artery and the posterior belly of the digastric muscle laterally and the lingual, facial, superficial temporal, maxillary, and internal carotid arteries, internal jugular vein and the stylomandibular ligament medially.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the length of SP in the dry skulls present in the department.

The elongated SP and the ossified stylohyoid ligament can compress the structure in close vicinity, leading to symptoms like sore throat, dysphasia, otalgia, the sensation of a foreign body in the throat, facial pain radiating to the ear or along the mandible, and head and neck mimicking neuralgic pain. [4],[5],[6] A SP is considered to be elongated when it is longer than 30 mm. [7],[8] This anomaly appears in adults with varying frequency, ranging from 2% to 30%. [7]

   Materials and Methods Top

The study has been conducted in 45 dry skulls at the Department of Anatomy, Sree Balaji Dental College and Hospital. All skulls were regular in shape, without obvious evidences of deformities. It was observed in 4 skulls belonging to that, SP was elongated in 1, bilaterally, and 3, unilaterally. These skulls were studied and scrutinized for any other variation. The length of the SP is measured and recorded. And the skulls with the elongated processes were photographed.


Among the skulls, SP was elongated unilaterally in 3 skulls and bilaterally in 1 skull. It is seen in photograph 1 and photograp 2.

   Discussion Top

The SP can be elongated bilaterally or unilaterally, however unilateral elongation of the SP is more frequent. [9] Ossification of the stylohyoid ligament occurs with differing frequency and may be as low as 2-4% or as high as 84.4% but may be asymptomatic. [10],[11] In the Eagle's syndrome, the elongated SP or ossified stylohyoid ligament is a source of pain. [4],[5],[12]
"Elongated SP" is a term used since the publication by Eagle [13] in reports concerning findings in both dentomaxillofacial and ear-nose-throat patients. [7],[8],[14],[15],[16] This term denotes a SP exceeding its normal length. Eagle's [13] definition was: "The normal SP measures between 2.5 cm and 3 cm." His method of measurement was not described, but his examples showed lateral radiographs of the skull.

Eagle described the syndrome and stated that the normal SP is approximately 2.75 cm and any SP beyond that may be considered elongated. Eagle divided the syndrome into two categories. He described the classic syndrome as persistent pain in the pharynx, aggravated by swallowing with the pain frequently referred to the ear on the side of the elongated SP. He also noticed increased salivation, hesitancy and difficulty in swallowing, gagging and a foreign body sensation. [13]

In the first group, symptoms are characterized by pain located in the areas of distribution of the fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth cranial nerves. It is associated in most cases with tonsillectomy that may have been performed many years earlier. [17] Pain following tonsillectomy is presumably created by stretching or compressing the nerve or nerve endings of cranial nerves in the tonsillar fossa either during healing or due to scar formation. [18] The elongated SP can be palpated by inserting a finger orally along the occlusal plane posterior to the region of the tonsillar fossa. Pain is reproduced by palpation of the SP. Confirmation is made with radiographs showing an elongated SP or mineralization of the stylohyoid complex. [19]

The second type, the carotid artery syndrome, usually is not associated with tonsillectomy. The carotid artery syndrome is caused by mechanical irritation of the sympathetic nerve tissue in the walls of the internal and/or external carotid artery by the tip of the SP or the ossified ligament. This irritation produces referred pain in the respective area of vascularization. [8],[15]

Eagle syndrome is most commonly seen after the age of 30 years. There is no significant sex predilection in occurrence of mineralization of the SP; however, symptoms are more common in females. [8] Eagle's syndrome is not frequently suspected in clinical practice. The symptoms in Eagle's syndrome range from mild discomfort to acute neurologic and referred pain. These may include: Pain in the throat, sensation of a foreign body in the pharynx, difficulty in swallowing, otalgia, headache, pain along the distribution of the external and internal carotid arteries, dysphasia, pain on cervical rotation, facial pain, vertigo, and syncope. [12],[18]

   Conclusion Top

The SP may develop inflammatory changes or impinge on the adjacent arteries, on sensory nerve endings leading to the symptoms. Diagnosis can usually be made on physical examination: By digital palpation of the SP in the tonsillar fossa, which exacerbates the pain. Relief of symptoms with injection of local anesthetic into tonsillar fossa relieving the pain can be used as a diagnostic tool. [19] Over the years, authors have given much pathogenic relevance to the length of SP, as well as to the shape and position in suggesting the etiology of painful syndromes. [11] However, not all elongated SPs are symptomatic, since some SPs of normal length can also lead to the syndrome. [4] Clinicians must be aware of the anatomy of the SP, which may aid them in establishing a clinical diagnosis.

   References Top

Okur A, Ozkiris M, Serin HI, Gencer ZK, Karaçavus S, Karaca L, et al. Is there a relationship between symptoms of patients and tomographic characteristics of styloid process? Surg Radiol Anat 2014;36:627-32.  Back to cited text no. 1
Bouzaïdi K, Daghfous A, Fourati E, Kechaou I, Jabnoun F, Chtioui I. Eagle's syndrome. Acta Radiol Short Rep 2013;2:2047981613495676.  Back to cited text no. 2
Camarda AJ, Deschamps C, Forest D. I. Stylohyoid chain ossification: A discussion of etiology. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1989;67:508-14.  Back to cited text no. 3
Feldman V. Eagle's syndrome: A case of symptomatic calcification of stylohyoid ligaments. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2003;47:21-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Godden DR, Adam S, Woodwards RT. Eagle's syndrome: An unusual cause of a clicking jaw. Br Dent J 1999;186:489-90.  Back to cited text no. 5
Miller DB. Eagle's syndrome and the trauma patient. Significance of an elongated styloid process and/or ossified stylohyoid ligament. Funct Orthod 1997;14:30-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Kaufman SM, Elzay RP, Irish EF. Styloid process variation. Radiologic and clinical study. Arch Otolaryngol 1970;91:460-3.  Back to cited text no. 7
Keur JJ, Campbell JP, McCarthy JF, Ralph WJ. The clinical significance of the elongated styloid process. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1986;61:399-404.  Back to cited text no. 8
Scaf G, Freitas DQ, Loffredo Lde C. Diagnostic reproducibility of the elongated styloid process. J Appl Oral Sci 2003;11:120-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
Camarda AJ, Deschamps C, Forest D. II. Stylohyoid chain ossification: A discussion of etiology. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1989;67:515-20.  Back to cited text no. 10
Ferrario VF, Sigurtá D, Daddona A, Dalloca L, Miani A, Tafuro F, et al. Calcification of the stylohyoid ligament: Incidence and morphoquantitative evaluations. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1990;69:524-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Gossman JR Jr, Tarsitano JJ. The styloid-stylohyoid syndrome. J Oral Surg 1977;35:555-60.  Back to cited text no. 12
Eagle WW. Elongated styloid process. Report of two cases. Arch Otolaryngol 1937;25:584-7.  Back to cited text no. 13
Monsour PA, Young WG. Variability of the styloid process and stylohyoid ligament in panoramic radiographs. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1986;61:522-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
Correll RW, Jensen JL, Taylor JB, Rhyne RR. Mineralization of the stylohyoid-stylomandibular ligament complex. A radiographic incidence study. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1979;48:286-91.  Back to cited text no. 15
Ettinger RL, Hanson JG. The styloid or "Eagle" syndrome: An unexpected consequence. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1975;40:336-40.  Back to cited text no. 16
Dolan EA, Mullen JB, Papayoanou J. Styloid-stylohyoid syndrome in the differential diagnosis of atypical facial pain. Surg Neurol 1984;21:291-4.  Back to cited text no. 17
Langlais RP, Miles DA, Van Dis ML. Elongated and mineralized stylohyoid ligament complex: A proposed classification and report of a case of Eagle's syndrome. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1986;61:527-32.  Back to cited text no. 18
Lindeman P. The elongated styloid process as a cause of throat discomfort. Four case reports. J Laryngol Otol 1985;99:505-8.  Back to cited text no. 19

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