Eagle Syndrome: Symptoms and Treatment (Complete Guide)

neck pain Eagle syndrome

Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine

Pain in the neck (neck pain) can result from several pathologies. One of them, although rare, is the eagle syndrome. This disease was described in 1937 by an otolaryngologist (ENT) named Watt Eagle. This condition is common in women between the ages of 20 and 40.

Through this article we will explain to you what it is exactly (definition), what are the causes and what are the symptoms of this pathology. We will also discuss the means of positive and differential diagnosis and finally, the treatment of Eagle syndrome.


Normally there is a bony protuberance called Styloid process about 10 to 15 mm on the temporal bone (at the base of the skull on the side of the ear). the pen-ligament hyoid meanwhile, connects this Styloid process withhyoid bone, which is located at the level of the throat.

Le eagle syndrome is a rare disease characterized by elongation of the styloid process or ossification of the stylohyoid ligament. This abnormal apophysis generates a conflict with the anatomical elements located in this region of the body. The styloid process will irritate certain nerves (in particular that of the internal carotid), responsible for the painful symptoms that are experienced by the patient.


As stated in the definition, two main conditions are involved in the eagle syndrome :

  • hypertrophy of the styloid process of the temporal bone,
  • ossification of the stylohyoid ligament (The fibers of the ligament become dense to take on the structure of a bone).
  • In addition, another possible cause of Eagle syndrome is the neck surgery. Such surgery can be performed following trauma or to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy). In this case, a change in the tissues of the neck is noted. Scar-related adhesions compromise the elasticity of these tissues. It also follows an irritation of the nerve roots by the same phenomena of compression as when a hypertrophy of the styloid process occurs. In addition to nerve damage, muscle pain may appear, in the long term, because the muscles are subject to reflex contractures.

Symptoms of the disease

The clinical symptoms experienced by a patient with Eagle syndrome are:

  • side pain in the neck, throat,
  • a feeling of "something stuck" in the throat,
  • headaches, pain in the ear, in the face. These pains are aggravated by movements of the head and neck during chewing.
  • difficulty swallowing and speaking
  • hypersalivation.


Positive diagnosis

Neurological examination is normal. Radiology and CT scan of the cervical region highlight elongation of the styloid process of the temporal bone and ossification of the stylo-hyoid ligament.

Differential diagnosis

Eagle syndrome should not be confused with:

  • La glossopharyngeal neuralgia : paroxysmal shock-like pain, whereas in Eagle's syndrome, the pain is related to movement.
  • a tumor of the larynx, hypopharynx, etc.

The diagnosis can be confirmed by injecting a local anesthetic at the level of the attachment of the stylohyoid ligament to the styloid process. Pain relief then suggests a local origin, which is not the case with glossopharyngeal neuralgia or a tumour.


The therapeutic means of Eagle's syndrome are the medications and surgery. Medical treatment consists of relieving pain with analgesics, anti-inflammatories or corticosteroid injections.

Surgical treatment consists of removal of calcifications at the level of the stylo-hyoid ligament. You can also make a styloidectomy (resect the protruding bony growth). This last solution remains reserved for very extreme cases because it can be a source of post-surgical complications.


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