Contribution of conventional axial computed tomography (nonhelical), in conjunction with panoramic tomography (zonography), in evaluating mandibular fractures
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Previous studies comparing the sensitivity between different radiological exams have concluded that conventional axial computed tomography (CT; nonhelical) is unsuitable in the assessment of mandibular fractures. Axial CT was shown to have a reduced sensitivity compared with plain radiographs and panoramic tomography because it missed nondisplaced fractures in the posterior portion of the mandible. Because the resolution of CT has improved from the time of these previous studies, the authors were interested in assessing whether axial CT (nonhelical) could now provide additional clinically useful information and enhance our understanding of mandibular fractures, beyond that obtained from panoramic tomography alone. In their study, 5 staff surgeons initially evaluated the panoramic tomograms and then the CT scans of 39 patients with 66 fractures. A series of four questions assessed the relative contribution of these two radiological exams in formulating an optimal operative plan for each patient. The authors found that axial CT provided supplementary information regarding missed fractures, comminution, and the exact size and degree of displacement of fracture fragments. This additional data could have changed the operative plan in a substantial proportion of patients (17 of 39). Axial CT demonstrated two missed parasymphyseal fractures (2 of 39 patients) that were not seen on these patients' panoramic tomograms. Axial CT also revealed undiscovered comminution or demonstrated fracture displacement more precisely in 39% of patients (15 of 39) and 24% of fractures (16 of 66). This study demonstrates that axial CT was clinically useful as an additional investigation to panoramic tomography. Axial CT helped elucidate further the nature of suspected mandibular fractures.
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