Vagal neuropathy: evaluation with CT and MR imaging

Radiology. 1987 Jul;164(1):97-102. doi: 10.1148/radiology.164.1.3588933.


The vagus nerve, as a result of its protracted course from the brain stem to the abdomen, can present a difficult imaging problem when it is compromised by a clinically occult lesion. The clinical and radiologic records of 48 patients with suspected vagus nerve dysfunction were reviewed to derive an efficient and effective approach to imaging this patient population. An imaging algorithm is proposed in which vagal neuropathies are divided both clinically and radiologically into proximal and distal categories. Proximal vagal lesions are part of a cranial neuropathy complex and have associated oropharyngeal signs and symptoms (e.g., abnormal gag reflex, uvular deviation). Distal vagal lesions occur as an isolated paralysis of the vagus nerve with no symptoms or signs referable to the oropharynx. Either computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging can be used to diagnose proximal or distal lesions. However, CT will be insensitive in the detection of the more cephalic proximal lesions, especially those in the brain stem, basal cisterns, and skull base.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Cranial Nerve Diseases / diagnosis
  • Hoarseness / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Vagus Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Vagus Nerve / pathology
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / diagnosis