Superimposed infection in mandibular osteoradionecrosis: diagnosis and outcomes

J Comput Assist Tomogr. Nov-Dec 2012;36(6):725-31. doi: 10.1097/RCT.0b013e3182702f09.


Background: Radiation therapy can result in osteoradionecrosis (ORN) and mucosal ulceration predisposing to infection.

Methods: Fourteen patients presenting with infectious sequelae related to mandibular ORN were retrospectively reviewed.

Results: In most patients, infection followed diagnosis of ORN; but in 4 patients, ORN was not diagnosed until after the time of infection and imaging. An early imaging finding of ORN was lingual cortical defects near the last molar. Pain followed by erythema, purulent drainage, and subperiosteal abscess by imaging were the most common signs of infection. In most patients, conservative management eventually failed and segmental mandibulectomies were required.

Conclusions: Soft tissue infection with characteristic bone findings such as subperiosteal abscess and cortical bone erosions helps to distinguish infected ORN from recurrent tumor or sterile ORN. In patients previously treated with radiation who present with infection, pain or an avid PET scan with bone involvement, the mandible should be scrutinized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bone Diseases, Infectious / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Diseases, Infectious / etiology
  • Bone Diseases, Infectious / therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation / methods
  • Male
  • Mandible / diagnostic imaging
  • Mandibular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mandibular Diseases / etiology
  • Mandibular Diseases / therapy
  • Mandibular Osteotomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoradionecrosis / complications*
  • Osteoradionecrosis / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Soft Tissue Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Soft Tissue Infections / etiology
  • Soft Tissue Infections / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents