We conducted a prospective study to compare the effectiveness of conventional computed tomography (CT) and puffed-cheek CT in detecting the presence and extension of oral cavity malignant tumors. We enrolled 11 patients—5 men and 6 women, aged 32 to 85 years—who had a primary squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity. These tumors were located in the floor of the mouth in 4 patients, in the buccal mucosa in 4, in both the buccal mucosa and retromolar trigone in 2, and in the retromolar trigone only in 1. First, conventional contrast-enhanced axial CT was obtained through the oral cavity and neck in each patient. Next, axial imaging was obtained through the oral cavity while patients inflated their cheeks, pursed their lips, and held their breath. We found that the puffed-cheek CTs provided more information regarding the size and extent of the squamous cell carcinomas than did the conventional CTs. For example, in 8 patients, conventional CT could not differentiate the tumor from the normal mucosal surface, but puffed-cheek images clearly showed the surface of the tumor as distinct from the normal mucosa. More disconcerting was the fact that in the other 3 patients, conventional CTs were evaluated as normal, even though puffed-cheek imaging clearly showed the mass in each case. We conclude that puffed-cheek CT is superior to conventional CT for evaluating the mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity. It provides a clearer and more detailed picture with no downside.
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