Document Type





Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC) is a rare tumor entity and comprises about 1% of all malignant tumor of the oral and maxillofacial region. It is slow growing but a highly invasive cancer with a high recurrence rate. Intracranial ACC is even more infrequent and could be primary or secondary occurring either by direct invasion, hematogenous spread, or perineural spread. We report the first case of the 5th and 6th nerve palsy due to cavernous sinus invasion by adenoid cystic carcinoma.

Case presentation

A 49-year-old African American female presented to the emergency room complaining of severe right-sided headache, photophobia, dizziness and nausea, with diplopia. The patient had a 14 year history migraine headaches, hypertension, and mild intermittent asthma. Physical examination revealed right lateral rectus muscle palsy with esotropia. There was numbness in all three divisions of the right trigeminal nerve. Motor and sensory examination of extremities was normal. An MRI of the brain/brain stem was obtained which showed a large mass in the clivus extending to involve the nasopharynx, pterygoid plate, sphenoid and right cavernous sinuses.

Biopsy showed an ACC tumor with a cribriform pattern of the minor salivary glands. The patient underwent total gross surgical resection and radiation therapy.


This is a case of ACC of the minor salivary glands with intracranial invasion. The patient had long history of headaches which changed in character during the past year, and symptoms of acute 5th and 6th cranial nerve involvement. Our unique case demonstrates direct invasion of cavernous sinus and could explain the 5th and 6th cranial nerve involvement as histopathology revealed no perineural invasion.


Oncology | Otolaryngology | Primary Care