Aim: To investigate the usefulness of high-resolution MR imaging in the evaluation of the extracranial facial nerve, compared with surgical findings.
Materials and methods: Thirteen patients with benign parotid tumours were studied on a 1.5-T MR system with a 3 in circular surface coil. High-resolution T1-weighted spin-echo, T2-weighted fast spin-echo, and three-dimensional gradient-recalled acquisition in the steady state (GRASS) images were obtained in the axial planes. Oblique reformatted images were generated. Tumours, parotid ducts and facial nerves were identified on these images. The relationship of the tumours to the facial nerves was confirmed at surgery.
Results: Facial nerves appeared as linear structures of low intensity on all pulse sequences. The main trunks and cervicofacial and temporofacial divisions of the facial nerves were identified in 100%, 84.1% and 53.8% of GRASS images, respectively. Parotid ducts appeared as structures of low intensity on T1-weighted (66.6%) and GRASS images (81.8%), and as structures of very high intensity on T2-weighted images (91.7%). The relationships of the tumours to the facial nerves were correctly diagnosed in 11 (91.7%) of 12 cases.
Conclusion: High-resolution MR imaging depicts the extracranial facial nerve and the parotid duct, and is useful for preoperative evaluation of parotid gland tumours.