Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging of pathologic conditions of the middle ear

Eur J Radiol. 2001 Nov;40(2):78-93. doi: 10.1016/s0720-048x(01)00376-x.


Computed tomography (CT) is an excellent technique for demonstrating even small abnormalities of the thin and complex bony structures of the middle ear. For this reason, it is the modality of choice in the study of conductive hearing loss (CHL). However, not every patient complaining of CHL requires a CT study. In fact, established indications encompass complex conditions, such as the complications of acute and chronic otomastoiditis, the postoperative ear in chronic otomastoiditis or in the localization of prosthetic devices, and the assessment of congenital or vascular anomalies. Particularly, the precise extent of bone erosion associated with cholesteatoma is correctly demonstrated by high resolution CT. Conversely, although fistulization through the tegmen tympani or the posterior wall of temporal bone is usually detectable by CT, the actual involvement of meninges and veins are better assessed by magnetic resonance (MR). MR is also indicated when complicated inflammatory lesions are suspected to extend into the inner ear or towards the sigmoid sinus or jugular vein. Neoplasms arising from or extending into the middle ear require the use of both techniques as their combined data provide essential information. Most important data for surgical planning concern the destruction of thin bony structures and the relationships of the lesion with the dura and surrounding vessels. DSA and interventional vascular techniques maintain an essential role in the presurgical work-up and embolization of paragangliomas extended into the middle ear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesteatoma / diagnosis
  • Cholesteatoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Ear Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Ear Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Ear Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Ear Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Ear, Middle / abnormalities
  • Ear, Middle / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ear, Middle / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Mastoiditis / diagnosis
  • Mastoiditis / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurilemmoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media / diagnostic imaging
  • Paraganglia, Nonchromaffin / diagnostic imaging
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / diagnosis
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Tympanoplasty