The role of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging in patients with sinusitis with complications

Laryngoscope. 2002 Feb;112(2):224-9. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200202000-00005.


Objectives: This study compares the use of computed tomography (CT) with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical assessment in the diagnosis and surgical management of patients with sinusitis with complications. The common CT findings of patients with intracranial or orbital infection of sinusitis are reviewed.

Study design: We reviewed the charts of 82 adult and pediatric patients with the diagnosis of sinusitis with intracranial or orbital infection who were seen at the University of Mississippi Medical Center from January 1985 through December 1999. We assessed the diagnoses and outcomes to determine the most effective use of CT, with or without MRI, in the treatment of these patients.

Methods: Clinical presentations were reviewed, along with the CT and MRI findings, for patients who had sinusitis with complications. Clinical, CT, and MRI findings were compared for accuracy in diagnosing 43 patients with orbital infections and 39 patients with intracranial infections.

Results: For patients with orbital complications, most of whom had unilateral ethmoiditis, the diagnostic accuracy was 82% for clinical assessment compared with 91% for CT. For patients with intracranial complications, meningitis was the most common diagnosis, and MRI was more accurate (97%) in determining the diagnosis than CT (87%) or clinical findings (82%).

Conclusion: CT remains the standard modality for diagnosing sinusitis, but MRI frequently is necessary, especially for patients with intracranial complications. Both diagnostic methods have improved the management and outcomes of patients who have sinusitis with complications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Epidural Abscess / complications
  • Epidural Abscess / diagnosis*
  • Epidural Abscess / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbital Diseases / complications
  • Orbital Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Orbital Diseases / surgery
  • Paranasal Sinuses / diagnostic imaging
  • Paranasal Sinuses / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sinusitis / complications
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis*
  • Sinusitis / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*