Some Remarks on Imaging of the Inner Ear: Options and Limitations

Clin Neuroradiol. 2015 Oct:25 Suppl 2:197-203. doi: 10.1007/s00062-015-0422-y. Epub 2015 Jul 8.


The temporal bone has a highly complex anatomical structure, in which the sensory organs of the cochlea and the vestibular system are contained within a small space together with the sound-conducting system of the middle ear. Detailed imaging is thus required in this anatomical area. There are a great many clinical aims for which the highest-possible spatial resolution is required. These include the localization of cerebrospinal fluid fistulas, the detection of malformations of the middle and inner ear and the vestibulocochlear nerve, an aberrant course of the facial nerve and anomalies of the arterial and venous structures, the confirmation of dehiscence of the semicircular canals and finally, the verification of endolymphatic hydrops in cases of Ménière's disease. However, the term 'high resolution' is very time dependent. Two milestones in this respect have been (in 1991) the 3D visualization of the inner ear by means of maximum-intensity projection (MIP) of a T2-weighted constructive interference in steady state (CISS) sequence of a 1.5-tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner (Tanioka et al., Radiology 178:141-144, 1991) and (in 1997) imaging of the vestibulocochlear nerve for the diagnosis of hypoplasia inside the internal auditory canal using the same sequence (Casselman et al., Radiology 202:773-781, 1997).The objective of this article is to highlight the options for, and the challenges of, contemporary imaging with regard to some clinical issues relating to the inner ear.

Keywords: Dehiscence; Hypoplasia and aplasia of the vestibulocochlear nerve; Labyrinthine fistula; Ménière; Temporal bone anatomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ear, Inner / abnormalities*
  • Ear, Inner / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Labyrinth Diseases / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Patient Positioning / methods*