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The role of angiography in managing patients with temporal bone fractures: A retrospective study of 64 cases

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May 1, 2009
by K. Asif Ahmed, MD, David Allison, MD, Wesley S. Whatley, MD, and Rakesh K. Chandra, MD


We conducted a retrospective study of the utility of angiography in the evaluation of patients with temporal bone fractures. Our study population was made up of 64 patients-58 males and 6 females, aged 14 to 75 years (mean: 35.3)-with a temporal bone fracture who had presented to a level I trauma center over a 1-year period. Records were reviewed and data were obtained on the mechanism of injury; the type of fracture; associated injuries, particularly neurocranial injuries detected on computed tomography (CT) of the head; and any angiographic findings that might have been obtained. The primary outcomes measures were the type of treatment administered (conservative vs. surgical) and mortality. Patients were assigned to 1 of 4 groups according to CT results and angiographic findings, if any: normal CT and no angiogram (group 1; n = 12), abnormal CT and no angiogram (group 2; n = 28), abnormal CT and an abnormal angiogram (group 3; n = 9), and abnormal CT and a normal angiogram (group 4; n = 15). Conservative treatment was administered to all 12 patients in group 1 and to 9 patients (60%) in group 4; surgical treatment was provided to two-thirds of the patients in both group 2 and group 3. Mortality was low in group 1 (n = 0), group 3 (n = 1; 11%), and group 4 (n = 1; 7%), but high in group 2 (n = 10; 36%). In fact, the key finding of this study was that mortality in the group with an abnormal CT and no angiogram (group 2) was significantly higher than mortality in the group with an abnormal CT and an abnormal angiogram (group 3) (p = 0.02), even though the injuries in the 2 groups were similarly severe and their management was similarly aggressive. We conclude that current guidelines for angiography may need to be expanded to include all patients who have CT evidence of neurocranial injury in order to detect those vascular injuries that need aggressive management and thus lower overall mortality.

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