A persistent stapedial artery is a congenital defect of the inner ear where an artery that in an embryo that passes through the stapes bone in the middle ear remains present well into development of the fetus. In a normal fetus, this artery is eventually destroyed, leaving no arteries that exist within the inner ear behind the eardrum.
The condition itself is rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in 100 births. In addition, it rarely exhibits any symptoms. As such, there are few cases reported in the medical literature. It will often manifest itself by causing dizziness (by interfering with the balance mechanisms of the inner ear), auditory hallucinations (by pressing agains the nearby temporal lobe) and nosebleed (if the artery bleeds, it can only drain through the eustachian tube).
The condition is difficult to diagnose. The ear will usually appear normal on an external examination. Often, the only clue is that the inner ear has a small, palpable mass.
When the condition causes a problem, it can be corrected by removing the artery with surgery.