Perineural tumor extension through the foramen ovale: evaluation with MR imaging

Radiology. 1990 Jan;174(1):65-71. doi: 10.1148/radiology.174.1.2152985.


Perineural tumor extension is a form of metastatic disease in which primary tumors spread along neural pathways and gain access to non-contiguous regions. The treatment and prognosis are altered when perineural extension occurs. Awareness and proper evaluation are critical for the radiologist. The third (mandibular) division of the trigeminal nerve (V3), passing through the skull base via the foramen ovale, is a common route of perineural spread of head and neck lesions. Seven patients with perineural tumor involvement of the mandibular nerve were evaluated with magnetic resonance imaging with use of standard spin-echo pulse sequences emphasizing T1-weighted information. Three patients had adenoid cystic carcinoma, three had squamous cell carcinoma, and one had well-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma of the orbit. MR imaging signs of perineural involvement included smooth thickening of V3, concentric expansion of the foramen ovale, replacement of the normal trigeminal cistern hypointensity by an isointense mass, lateral bulging of cavernous sinus dural membranes, and atrophy of masticator muscles.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Cranial Nerve Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mandibular Nerve / pathology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / anatomy & histology