Edema in the retropharyngeal space associated with head and neck tumors: CT imaging characteristics
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To determine computed tomographic (CT) imaging characteristics of retropharygeal edema, we reviewed CT images in 18 patients with head and neck tumors. Retropharyngeal edema spread craniocaudally between soft palate and upper half of thyroid cartilage in all patients. No edema fluid extended above soft palate and below thyroid cartilage. Horizontally, it spread symmetrically in ten and asymmetrically in eight patients. Predominance in asymmetrical retropharyngeal edema was found on the same side as that of unilateral predominance both in lymph nodes enlargement and jugular vein stenosis/occlusion. All patients had edema also in other cervical spaces. Edema of retropharyngeal and other spaces fluctuated synchronously. In 14 patients, as primary lesion and/or cervical lymph nodes regressed, retropharyngeal edema disappeared or decreased. Retropharyngeal edema had some imaging characteristics. With knowledge of that, we could avoid diagnostic confusion when evaluating head and neck CT images.
KeywordsRetropharyngeal space Edema CT Head and neck tumors
We thank Kazuto Matsuura, MD, Takatsuna Sasaki, MD for providing valuable clinical data.
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