The temporal bone anatomy is complex, with many critical structures in close association with one another. The temporal bone region comprises cranial nerves V, VI, VII, and VIII; vascular structures such as the internal carotid and middle meningeal arteries; sigmoid sinus; jugular bulb; and sensorineural and membranous structures of the inner ear. Most temporal bone fractures are a result of high-energy blunt head trauma. Multidetector computed tomography (CT) plays a fundamental role in the initial evaluation of patients with polytrauma in the emergency department. Multidetector CT may help identify important structural injuries that may have devastating complications such as sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, dizziness and balance dysfunction, perilymphatic fistulas, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, facial nerve paralysis, and vascular injury. Although classifying temporal bone fractures helps physicians understand and predict trauma-associated complications and guide treatment, identifying injury to critical structures is more important for guiding management and determining prognosis than is simply classifying temporal bone fractures into a general category. Many temporal bone fractures and complications may be readily identified and characterized at routine cervical, maxillofacial, and head multidetector CT performed in patients with polytrauma, without the need for dedicated temporal bone multidetector CT. Dedicated temporal bone multidetector CT should be considered when there is a high degree of suspicion for temporal bone fractures and no fractures are identified at head, cervical, or maxillofacial CT.
© RSNA, 2011.